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Word Jedi
05-12-2010, 04:51 AM
Let's kick this around a little.

Pros and cons of each?

Opinions?

Who makes more money, novelists or screenwriters?

Ever listen to or read any of the Gurus like Syd Field, John Truby or Blake Snyder or McKee, among others? Their techniques apply just as easily to the screen as they do to page. Anyone agree or disagree?

I think the main drawback to screenwriting is once you sell the script, the studio can do whatever they want with it.

What do you all think?

Miss Plum
05-12-2010, 05:43 AM
It's funny you should ask, because I've shoved screenwriting for the time being and I'm working on a graphic novel instead. I was just over at [Site deleted--JDM] reading about this very topic.

You bring up both business and craft.

As to business, the screenwriter stumbling around with a spec script in her hand is just about the weakest character in Hollywood. Ironically, the moment she sells her script, she has completely lost the power to get it produced. She's much better off going to Hollywood with an existing property that has a built-in fanbase. That's a more likely sale, a faster production schedule, and greater creative control for the writer.

As to craft, I'm applying virtually everything I learned about screenwriting to GN writing, especially the advice of Richard Walter, Neill Hicks, and [names deleted at webmaster's request--JDM].

[Names deleted--JDM] say that getting a novel published is a tough way to go, but it seems like a cakewalk compared to the obstacle course from hell that they describe for people who write original screenplays.

Word Jedi
05-12-2010, 05:55 AM
It's funny you should ask, because I've shoved screenwriting for the time being and I'm working on a graphic novel instead. I was just over at [site deleted--JDM] reading about this very topic.

You bring up both business and craft.

As to business, the screenwriter stumbling around with a spec script in her hand is just about the weakest character in Hollywood. Ironically, the moment she sells her script, she has completely lost the power to get it produced. She's much better off going to Hollywood with an existing property that has a built-in fanbase. That's a more likely sale, a faster production schedule, and greater creative control for the writer.

As to craft, I'm applying virtually everything I learned about screenwriting to GN writing, especially the advice of Richard Walter, Neill Hicks, and [names deleted--JDM].

[Names deleted] say that getting a novel published is a tough way to go, but it seems like a cakewalk compared to the obstacle course from hell that they describe for people who write original screenplays.

[Names deleted--JDM] website is terrific. LOADS of great how-to info there.

I've read Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat" books and got some great tips from them. It's a shame Blake's not with us anymore.

John Truby's "Great Screenwriting" CDs are also full of great tools to use.

I'm currently brainstorming a supernatural thriller. Not sure yet whether I'll go the screenplay or novel route with it, but it really is a lot of fun this writing thing.

ChaosTitan
05-12-2010, 06:17 AM
Once upon a time I wanted to be a screenwriter. I read books, read screenplays, studied movies and even interned in Hollywood for a semester. I wrote a few screenplays.

Then I realized a lot of things about the business that terrified me. That you almost have to live in LA in order to sell. That even if you sell a screenplay, it may not get produced (never mind the complete loss of control over the story once it's sold). That you often have to pitch in person.

When I made the choice to switch to novels, I did use a lot of the writing tools I learned from my screenwriting books/class. Many things, such as the three-act structure, can be applied to novels. But they are still very different animals that require a different way of writing and not everyone can do both.

Shadow_Ferret
05-12-2010, 06:24 AM
To be honest, I can name a ton of authors, I can't name one screenwriter.

Miss Plum
05-12-2010, 08:06 AM
To be honest, I can name a ton of authors, I can't name one screenwriter.
Hee. Probably some of the most recognizable stories and quotes from fiction of the last 70 years come from screenwriters, not book authors.


"Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night." -- Joseph Mankiewicz
"ET phone home." -- Melissa Mathison
"I'm shocked -- shocked! to discover that (x) is going on." -- Julius Epstein
"Love means never having to say you're sorry." -- Erich Segal (that was a book first, but it would never have become so popular unless it had been made into a movie)

I did all those without even looking! I'm so cool. Now watch:

Ron Bass
Stuart Beattie
John Logan
John Patrick Shanley
oh man i'm good i'm good, haven't even been to imdb yet

Shadow_Ferret
05-12-2010, 08:29 AM
Have no idea who any of those names are.

And recognizable quotes doesn't impress me, not when things like "Where's the beef?" and "I've fallen and I can't get up" are also in the lexicon. ;)

Miss Plum
05-12-2010, 10:35 AM
It must be weird to be the ad writer who invented such phrases. There you are, unsung and unloved, while billions of people chant your words.

Anyway, it's a standard part of the screenwriter's life, and also the life of an author whose book is turned into a film. There are probably gazillions of people who think that Bogart made up the line, "Play it, Sam." I once heard a guy say "I want to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Gregory Peck."

~just a few more passing thoughts on novel vs. script~

Word Jedi
05-12-2010, 01:57 PM
Once upon a time I wanted to be a screenwriter. I read books, read screenplays, studied movies and even interned in Hollywood for a semester. I wrote a few screenplays.

Then I realized a lot of things about the business that terrified me. That you almost have to live in LA in order to sell. That even if you sell a screenplay, it may not get produced (never mind the complete loss of control over the story once it's sold). That you often have to pitch in person.

When I made the choice to switch to novels, I did use a lot of the writing tools I learned from my screenwriting books/class. Many things, such as the three-act structure, can be applied to novels. But they are still very different animals that require a different way of writing and not everyone can do both.

Now that's the strongest argument I've heard to date supporting novels over screenplays.

I certainly agree that screenwriting tools can be used for novels.

Well said!

Word Jedi
05-12-2010, 01:59 PM
To be honest, I can name a ton of authors, I can't name one screenwriter.

How true. The only screenwriter that comes to my mind is Shane Black, the writer of Lethal Weapon.

Manuel Royal
05-12-2010, 02:22 PM
I've got a strong desire to write screenplays -- but absolutely hate everything I've heard about the business. My secret evil plan is to write novels that can be both successful and easily adapted to the screen, then sell out to Hollywood.

It's true that except for a few very distinctive screenwriters like William Goldman or Charlie Kaufman, most remain unknown to the general public. That actually doesn't bother me.

Ryan David Jahn
05-12-2010, 08:07 PM
I just looked at IMDB's top 50 films of the last decade (http://www.imdb.com/chart/2000s). Six of the top ten are based on novels or short stories or graphic novels. Twenty-two of the top fifty. Eliminate the remakes of foreign films, and those based on life stories, and you have maybe fifteen of those movies based on an original screenplay.

According to most estimates about one in ten screenplays sold is actually produced. You could write and sell -- or be hired to write -- two scripts a year, and based on those numbers, have two films produced in a decade. And you'd be lucky. Writers who have successful movies tend to be produced again and again and again while others never are. I know people who have been working longer than a decade and earning a good living who have never had a script produced.

For me, a story isn't told until there's an audience for it. And an audience of producers and their assistants doesn't count.

If you write a novel (that finds a publisher) and have a film agent pushing it, it's probably just as likely to sell as a spec script. (Maybe more: it's proved itself by being publishable.) And you have more control over the material, since they'd just be licensing film rights rather than literally buying a script from you with a transfer of copyright.

And even if a movie isn't made (chances are...) you've reached an audience with the book already.

There's also less compromise. And you can't be fired from your book.

But if you're successful with screenplays, the money can be good.

Phaeal
05-12-2010, 08:44 PM
I'd rather write teleplays for a good cable drama. However, I think I'm better suited tempermentally for the loneliness of the long-distance novelist.

Jamesaritchie
05-12-2010, 10:37 PM
Let's kick this around a little.

Pros and cons of each?

Opinions?

Who makes more money, novelists or screenwriters?

Ever listen to or read any of the Gurus like Syd Field, John Truby or Blake Snyder or McKee, among others? Their techniques apply just as easily to the screen as they do to page. Anyone agree or disagree?

I think the main drawback to screenwriting is once you sell the script, the studio can do whatever they want with it.

What do you all think?

Most screenwriters and writers make nothing, or very, very little. The top screenwriters and the top novelists both make millions.

The two forms of writing have very, very little in common except for dialogue. The only way there is to tell whether a novelist can write a good screenplay is to have that writer write and sell a screenplay. The only way there is to tell whether a screenwriter can write a good novel is to have that screenwriter write and sell a novel.

At any rate, who makes more money means nothing. Both tend to make a lot, or they make nothing.

Having very few people recognize your name is only a drawback if you write for fame, and not many like fame after it comes. The people who matter, those with checkbooks and very large bank accounts, know your name.

Having other writers and directors change your screenplay can be very bad, or very good. It depends on how well it's done, and whether you want to treat your words like untouchable gold, or whether you want the best possible end product.

Screenwriting and novel writing are simply different worlds that require different talents, and different personality traits. One world is no better than the other, except for individual taste.

And, of course, if you write a novel that gets turned into a movie, you probably have zero control over the script, even if you write it.

Hollywood is just different. There a famous story of Hollywood buy film rights to a novel because they LOVED the title beyond measure. Then they wrote a completely different story to go with the title. And then they changed the title.

But the novelist had still sold film rights, even though the resulting film had nothing at all to do with the novel he wrote.

Money is a poor reason to think about either. You have to do what your talent allows you to do, and live in the world that best fits your personality. I know some extremely happy novelists, some extremely happy screenwriters, and some extremely happy writers who do both.

I know rich and poor. talented and talentless, in both camps.

I do believe in writing for money, but I also believe that the best way to get money from writing is to write whatever it is you most love writing.

RemusShepherd
05-12-2010, 10:43 PM
Who makes more money, novelists or screenwriters?

Ever listen to or read any of the Gurus like Syd Field, John Truby or Blake Snyder or McKee, among others? Their techniques apply just as easily to the screen as they do to page. Anyone agree or disagree?

I don't know much about screenwriting, but I have to disagree with this.

Even going from graphic novels to written novels, there's a huge gap in techniques. In a comic, I can draw the pain on a character's face -- in a book I have to describe it, and in a non-cliche way. I would expect it's even worse for screenwriters, whose instructions are boosted through a director, set and costume designer, and an actor before they have to connect to the audience. And that's just the descriptive stuff. There's a huge gulf between the pacing of a movie or a tv show and a novel. Some plotlines work in one medium and not another. I would expect there to be a lot of differences between screenwriting and novel writing.

As to who makes more money: Do you want to look at the average writer, the average successful writer, or the lucky bestseller?

The average novel writer never makes a sale. That's probably true for the average screenwriter also. Call it a tie.

The average successful novel writer is a midlist author who may have a series and one or two standalone books published in their lifetime. That may eke them out a meagre, low-middle class lifestyle, although royalties mean their retirement will be better than most. Most likely they'll supplement their income with a day job or a spouse's job. Compare that to the average successful screenwriter, who will make enough money to live in or around LA or NY, and will probably have short bursts of income into the higher middle class or lower upper class range. Few royalties, though. Screenwriter wins this category.

The lucky writer who manages to top the bestseller lists year after year? If he's writing novels he's a celebrity and a millionaire. If he's writing screenplays he's not doing much better than the average screenwriter -- most of the income made by big TV/movie productions is sucked up by other people, and he probably sold the copyright along with the script so the income stops when he stops writing. Novelist wins here, big time.

Miss Plum
05-13-2010, 12:02 AM
If you write a novel . . . you have more control over the material, since they'd just be licensing film rights rather than literally buying a script from you with a transfer of copyrightNot necessarily. I don't know all the minutiae of the rights sales, but living book authors lose creative control in Hollywood all the time. When Lolita was filmed, Vladimir Nabokov said the relationship between the film and his novel was “a lovely misty view seen through mosquito netting” and “a scenic drive as perceived by the horizontal passenger of an ambulance” (http://venusfebriculosa.com/?p=127) -- and Nabokov actually wrote the screenplay. Tom Clancy is another one who got burned creatively.

katiemac
05-13-2010, 12:52 AM
Hee. Probably some of the most recognizable stories and quotes from fiction of the last 70 years come from

There's easy reasoning behind that: far fewer movies release in a year than books.

maestrowork
05-13-2010, 04:47 AM
Screenwriting is NOT an easy field to break into. In fact, it's very hard because everyone is doing it these days. It doesn't take long to write a 120-page script that is 80% dialogue (as compared to 400-page novel). It is, however, difficult to sell screenplays.

Also, just because you sell your screenplay doesn't mean it will get made into a movie. If a script doesn't get made, then it's as good as a piece of scrap paper.

You can, if you're prolific, sell enough options to make a decent living. I know a screenwriter who's sold four options (but none produced so far -- and it's been six years). But even selling options is not easy.

Also, do understand that moviemaking is a collaboration process. Unless you finance your own movie and produce it yourself and do everything, chances are someone will butcher your script until it doesn't look like the original anymore. And you have to realize that chances are the "writer" is the last person people know when a movie is being made -- even the big names such as David Goyer are relatively unknown and their scripts get revised A LOT by just about everyone. It's a ongoing fight most of the time. Not everyone will become a superstar writer like Charlie Kaufman (you probably will have to win/get nominated for a few Oscars before you achieve that status).

Compared that to novelists: except for the editor(s), the novel is pretty much a total writer's effort. The writer's name is BIG going on the cover. He or she OWNS the book, can call it theirs. Their names are not going to be three pages down on the credits.

Novelists make from $0 to $millions. Most will probably make a decent living selling books, if they're any good and prolific. Screenwriters don't usually enjoy that kind of workload unless, of course, they're good and well known in the industry. But I'll be hard pressed to think of any screenwriters who make millions, even with backend deals. And don't forget, novelists get money from rights sale when their books are made into movies, too.

Ryan David Jahn
05-13-2010, 04:50 AM
Not necessarily. I don't know all the minutiae of the rights sales, but living book authors lose creative control in Hollywood all the time. When Lolita was filmed, Vladimir Nabokov said the relationship between the film and his novel was “a lovely misty view seen through mosquito netting” and “a scenic drive as perceived by the horizontal passenger of an ambulance” (http://venusfebriculosa.com/?p=127) -- and Nabokov actually wrote the screenplay. Tom Clancy is another one who got burned creatively.

That movie people butcher material is true, of course, and worth noting, but it wasn't really what I was getting at. I probably wasn't clear -- I typed in haste -- but I meant more control over the material as a whole, since you're keeping the copyright while licensing film rights, not control over what people do with the material once they've licensed film rights.

There are a bunch of subsidiary rights that are usually handled differently depending on whether the source material is a script or a novel.

maestrowork
05-13-2010, 04:53 AM
As for the skills involved: there are overlaps, of course (dialogue, character development, scenes, plots, etc.) but there are also tremendous differences.

I write both, and I can't say for sure that one skill set translate without modification or adaptation to another. IMHO, novels are more cerebral, verbal and descriptive. Screenplays are more visual, visceral, and fast (dialogue driven with simple narratives). But that's just in general.

Of course you can write a barebone novel that is dialogue and action heavy -- thus it would resemble a screenplay. However, the reverse usually isn't true -- you simply can't write a screenplay with prose and detailed narrative -- not that it can't be done, especially if your screenplay is more about imagery than dialogue and action (one only needs to read a couple of Kuwusawa's scripts).

maestrowork
05-13-2010, 04:57 AM
Not to mention frauds, scams, etc. Case in point, I know the guy who wrote Snakes on a Plane. After he sold the screenplay, it went through development hell and eventually he didn't hear anything, then the studio came up with the movie that used the premise but changed a few key things, but he didn't get a credit. They not only butchered his script, they didn't even give him credit. Fortunately, he's an entertainment lawyer and he sued, and he won so he's now listed as "Story By." His story is that once you sell the option to your screenplay, you most often have zero control and they can screw you over if you're not careful.

Miss Plum
05-14-2010, 09:14 AM
Here's (http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/05/hate-your-movie-choices-blame-the-recession/56350/) an interesting note on chances for writers of spec scripts by Lynda Obst.

Excerpt:


A script sells because:

1. It has "unaided awareness." In other words, you've heard about it many times (all your life?) before the studio's marketing department starts promoting it. It is a Mattel toy (since Transformers (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0418279/), the studios have bought Battleship, Lego, Oujia, and Candyland), a best-selling video game, a graphic novel, a comic book, or is a remake of something thought coolish (why?) like Clash of the Titans (http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/04/clunk-of-the-titans/38377/). Hasbro has more than 10 movies in development. We can't even count Marvel's.

She completely dismisses freshness and quality. A literary manager tells her, "The idea of a script selling because it is good is soooo 1993."

Word Jedi
05-14-2010, 02:11 PM
A literary manager tells her, "The idea of a script selling because it is good is soooo 1993."
Looks like it's time to stick with novel writing, then.

Cyia
05-14-2010, 02:43 PM
Most screenplays are garbage. No, most of them are the layer of scum that's left when a leaky bag of garbage sits in the same place too long. It's much worse than with novels.

Figure something like 20-50K registered in a year with WGA. Now, think how many movies are made a year. Next year, those SAME 20-50 are still there, along with the new 20-50K. It keeps compounding.

Unlike novel writing where most of the "gatekeeper" stuff is hype, with screenwriting it exists. There aren't just gatekeepers - the gate's behind a moat surrounding a mountain that randomly moves from place to place on the back of a unicorn that may or may not try to kill you because it's having a bad day. And the guy guarding the unicorn has a flamethrower and only speaks Dutch on Tuesdays when he's talking at all, so you can't even try to reason with him.

I have found, however, that writing a quick screenplay draft really helps with novel writing.

Jamesaritchie
05-14-2010, 09:22 PM
. But I'll be hard pressed to think of any screenwriters who make millions, even with backend deals. And don't forget, novelists get money from rights sale when their books are made into movies, too.

Screenwriters don't get the press, for the scrutiny, novelists get, but there are screenwriters who make millions. I know one who was getting four million per script, and this was several years ago.

But four million isn't news when an actor may make twenty million for the same movie, and the budget itself can be well over a hundred million.

Jamesaritchie
05-14-2010, 09:52 PM
Most screenplays are garbage. No, most of them are the layer of scum that's left when a leaky bag of garbage sits in the same place too long. It's much worse than with novels.

Figure something like 20-50K registered in a year with WGA. Now, think how many movies are made a year. Next year, those SAME 20-50 are still there, along with the new 20-50K. It keeps compounding.

Unlike novel writing where most of the "gatekeeper" stuff is hype, with screenwriting it exists. There aren't just gatekeepers - the gate's behind a moat surrounding a mountain that randomly moves from place to place on the back of a unicorn that may or may not try to kill you because it's having a bad day. And the guy guarding the unicorn has a flamethrower and only speaks Dutch on Tuesdays when he's talking at all, so you can't even try to reason with him.

I have found, however, that writing a quick screenplay draft really helps with novel writing.

The gatekeepers are very real, but they do let some people pass, else nothing would ever be filmed.

The biggest difference I've found between Hollywood and New York is that in New York you get past the gatekeepers by writing something good. In Hollywood, you get past the gatekeepers by knowing the secret password. The secret password changes, but it's pretty much always some one's name.

The gatekeepers are easy to find in both places, but how you get trough is different. You can sell a script, or, more likely, have one optioned, by hitting the right agent at the right time, or by entering one of the few legitimate contests, but the more usual method is to know someone who matters. His name is the secret password that opens almost any gate.

I had my first screenplay optioned purely by a name. I have a friend in California, who happened to have a friend who's a well-known producer. One day my friend went missing, and in the process of looking for her, I ended up on the phone with the producer, who called me because he was looking for her, too, and knew we were friends.

We talked for about twenty minutes, and with not one word about writing, but at the end of the conversation he told me he knew, from my friend, that I was a writer, and asked if I had anything ready to go. I said I had one script I was just starting to shop around, and he gave me a name and a phone number, with a "Just tell him I said to call."

That was all it took. Still no production, but that screenplay was optioned instantly, and for pretty good money.

I've never heard of anything like this happening in New York.

Word Jedi
06-16-2010, 02:18 PM
This is where I got stuck. Really stuck. Recently I tried applying screenwriting techniques and theories to writing novels. I ended up with the worst case of writer's block EVER.