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Misadventures Part II: How To Upset Someone Without Really Trying

4/9/2008 5:03:08 PM permalink

The general idea of life is you get out what you put in. If you're nice, nice will come back to you. If you're gonna be an arrogant bastard, you'll get that in return.

So I mentioned how the local guy wanted me to help adapt his novel to script form. I told him my (reduced) fee 10 grand for the adaptation, plus 5 for the new material I'd have to add. I also slashed both those in half to accommodate the economic situations of the day and location.

So last week I get a reply back saying how he wasn't looking for a ghost writer (but he needs one badly, and I'm not the only one that is of this opinion.)

He's looking for someone to work FOR HIM with him. He'd allow this mere mortal 40 percent of the work, and 40 percent of the sale.

Oh how generous.

That's not how things work in Hollywood, and the W.G.A. would likely eat him alive for thinking such a thing.

Here's what I'm assuming: he'll provide the story, and I just figure out the spacing, the margins, and so on. It isn't a stretch to say "he needs me," because you can count the number of competent screenwriters in the western half of Arkansas on one hand, most likely. I sure as hell don't know anyone else.

I've proven that I do have a mental filter, cause I certainly didn't tell him what I truly thought. When those 60/40 figures came in I nearly screamed and laughed at the same time.

"He's got to be kidding," was the main thought bouncing around inside my skull. Apparently he wasn't, and then the giggles took over. Oh how I wanted to do to him what I've done to Cathie The Fat And Evil.

I haven't though. Come to think of it, I never really got to do it to Cathie. As Kathy Griffin put it, I was raised right: I talk about people behind their backs.

But this local guy suffers from ignorance (which is fine, we all do. I certainly do, and I'm not ashamed to say so.) But I've been examining Hollywood politics for a long time too. This project of his would be laughed out of California, and then he'd truly know the lash and poison of the serpent's tongue.

So I finally sent my reply: here it is.

I'm sorry but I'm going to decline your offer.

I will offer some advice though: go to the nearest bookshop, and pick up a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing," and read it. It's arguably the best ally you'll ever have, if you wish to continue your literary aspirations. There are also lots of books that teach screenwriting, if you're still on intent on following through on this project.

I'd also recommend you take another class or two to help sharpen your senses.

I feel your work would be best served if I was completely honest: for the most part, the novel I read was, more or less, an okay piece of work. If I was an instructor, I'd possibly give it around 75% out of a hundred, truth be told.

Some of it, especially the prologue, was right up there in the 90 % range. It needs just a hint of polishing, but really not very much.

On the whole, the book reads as if its genesis came from a Creative Writing course. I truly feel the book was published possibly a year too early. Rewriting is key, and polishing does makes perfection.

If you still fancy the idea of adapting said novel into a script, you should be aware that the Writer's Guild of America strictly monitors WHO wrote WHAT, and HOW MUCH. You cannot just proclaim X person will write This Much, and Y person will write That Much. If it's 2 people, it's 50-50 even.

And even then, it will likely be rewritten because the studios are bastards, and will give you notes out the wazoo about what They Want, and this is why I'm going to recommend you hold off trying to write a script. You're not ready for it. And writer's out in Hollywood are a dime a dozen, which means any one of them can easily (and will be) replaced.

Take the time and hone your craft. That's the best advice I can give anyone.


It may seem harsh, but then I don't think so. If my work was good, I was told it was good. If okay, it was deemed okay. If it really didn't amount to much, well the that was mentioned in some fashion.

That was 1999. In the fall of 2001, I had another teacher who literally handed an assignment back to me one day, and said there's nothing I can teach you.

That was a happy day. I can be humbled by people I respect, and I respected that man a lot, a long time before he ever read much of my work. There was another time I'd overheard a moment of his praise, quite by accident.
It was half an hour before class change, and the door was left open. The second level of that building was essentially empty anyways.

I go down the hallway, and sit down out of sight, just five feet away from the door, and I hear him talking. He mentions how, in the very next class (the one I was waiting for) that there were two people that he would just "set loose upon the world," because they were among the best he's seen.

I was one of those two. I never told him I overheard him, and no one knew I was out there either.

Another bit of praise came when I asked him to read a draft of a script I and a friend of mine had constructed. He came in maybe a week or so later, just as class was starting up, and was talking about how he should use it as an example to the entire class as a wonderful piece of work.

He never did -- thankfully. I am capable of great embarrassment, and that would've done it.

I also know, that no matter how great I was viewed, that I'm not as good as I want to be. In fact I fall short of the grandeur I wish I could create. I will never be That Good, which does disappoint me.

I once handed my friend a copy of the first 110 pages of "Sweet Dreams: A Sandman's Story." It was the first draft, an unpolished draft, and I gave it to my friend one afternoon to read.

She sat down, read it, and I went away for an hour or so. When I came back, I asked my usual question: "what'd you think?"

She proclaimed it was, by far, the best work I'd ever done. And it was just a first draft, and it was nowhere near complete.

No, there's got to be something wrong. I asked over and over, she said there was nothing wrong. In disbelief, I kept pestering her until I got a confession of what was wrong with it -- I wasted my breath, cause she never once changed her position.

Then I took about a month off and didn't write anymore. Part of that was because I didn't know how to finish the damned thing. I tried maybe 5 variations, and they were all trash. Then one day it just appeared and off I went. Those last 30 pages or so got revised more than the previous 110 or so.

I like praise, but I tend not to trust it.

I like criticism, cause I know it's important.
And I ask those around me to find what's wrong with the script, not what's right. Get rid of all that's wrong with it and you're done.

Then you can type The End, and mean it.

Tags: my life


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Date Joined: March 17, 2008