As I mentioned in my previous post, I have got this blog back up an running mainly to give myself some focus and get myself witting fit again.
Well, with my novel complete and yet far too niche for any agents to bite, I will self-publish that, put it to the side and let the millions and adoration come rolling on in. Done. But then what do I do to fill in my time? Another novel? Hmmm (I pondered, whilst watching some series or other on Amazon) And that’s when it hit me POW! Screenwriting! Of course! With this current revolution in the way we all watch TV – moving from network channels to online viewing and box sets – there is a now a huge market for screenwriters. And not only that; it seems almost anything is given consideration, going by some of the concepts inherent in the new shows presently available from Amazon and Netflix Originals (please note that I am not referring here to the Grand Tour on Amazon, which is load of tripe).
So, with a novel that no publisher wants behind me, it’s time to look forward… although saying that, I am tempted to turn my novel into a screenplay, as much to gain experience than anything else. I’ll let you know what I discover along the way.
And so on that subject, I am now going to return to reading my screenplay bible – The Complete Screenwriting Course by Charles Harris – and will be back in touch soon to see where I am going to go with this.
What I can tell you right now, however, is that at first glance screenwriting is a lot more complex than simply churning out a story. But who said this was going to be easy? (Well, actually, the promoters of the book I’m reading kind of hinted at it, but I guess they have to).
As writers, we all know redundant words such as that and very can (and should be) cut during the editing process. Until I read S&W’s book, however, I had no idea how also removing the word not can tighten up one’s prose. Writing in a more positive tone has a wonderful effect on the whole feel of a book… unless of course the mood you’re going for is one of darkness, hesitation and negativity; in that case let words like not, would, could,should,may or might come raining down. If not, dump them.
So, after reading this rule I used the ‘find’ tool and plodded though my manuscript looking for instances where I could replace negative phrases with more positive ones. I found 277 uses of the word not… that’s right, 277.
Here are just a few examples of the changes I made:
If the over-use of adverbs is one of writing’s biggest crimes, then dialogue attribution has to be up there with murder (and can easily murder a good novel). Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for adverbs in good writing, but that place is small, exclusive, and should be reserved for only the most upstanding and respectable adverbs. But – and it’s a bigger but than Kim Kardashian’s – when we come to adding an adverb to dialogue, well then that adverb must be really, really special to be allowed a place on the page.
For the most part, I like to talk about writing on this blog. Generally, I try to keep to what I think should be done when writing and how I personally like to do things… even though these two don’t often agree with each other. I don’t usually like to moan about the craft of writing, but sometimes, just sometimes, I get so cross I simply have to put pen to paper (so to speak). Continue reading →
Slightly remiss of me was to leave out the question from Nathan Englander that actually prompted this response, which is a brilliant quote in-of-itself:
Authorial intent doesn’t much matter once the book is out there. If I write a funny, happy story, and all it ever does is make people cry – well then it’s a sad story, whether I agree or not. What the reader sees on the page is what’s there.
So I’ve just finished the astounding book Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, and while this is not a book review, I shall take second to advise anyone to read it:
Go read this book. It’s brilliant.
Anyway, at the back of this novel is a Q&A session with the author where he says this about his readers:
“As writers we have to respect and like our readers. I want to acknowledge that they have taken a chance and that, more than likely they’re smarter than me, or more courageous, or at the very least they will continue the book further than I can. They can complete the story.”
This is wonderful quote that I think any writer should take note of. Hence the reason I stuck it in a post.
And so here is the next instalment of my series that looks to apply every single rule from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style to my manuscript. Today, rules 6, 7 & 8.
6. Do not break sentences in two.
What S&W are saying here is to be careful with where you put a full-stop. Ok, so it sounds elementary and their example below is really just a case of bad writing:
I met them on a Cunard liner many years ago. Coming home from Liverpool to New York.
See. Just bad writing.
They do, however, mention the clipping of a sentence if a certain emphasis is warranted:
Again and again he called out. No reply.
I do this quite a lot in my writing. S&W’s advise on the matter is that it’s fine in dialogue, but when used in narrative one must ensure the emphasis is warranted lest a clipped sentence seem merely a blunder in syntax or in punctuation.