Yesterday, I made a comment that the difference between being an author and being a screenwriter is the same as the difference between an immaculate conception and an egg donation.
Now as someone who writes both novels and scripts, this is a fairly obvious and totally accurate statement yet for some reason it seemed to cause confusion in certain writing circles and it struck me that it might be worthwhile expanding on it a bit. So what follows is a slightly tongue-in-cheek guide to the essential difference between the creative processes involved with the two very different disciplines.
As an author, when you write a novel, it is your baby. You sit, plot, write, edit, rewrite, edit again and then when you’re happy, you send it off to a publisher who more often than not, will be the first person to read it.
They will then come back with some comments to which your response will be to either reluctantly agree or to tell them to get stuffed. You then do a bit of polishing, send it off to a proper editor who, amongst other things, will fix your appalling grammar and then when everyone is happy, it heads off to print.
Yet from concept to shelf or kindle, as the writer you retain pretty much total creative control and as such, the finished article remains in essence, all your own work. From that point on, it’s all about you. Have you ever seen a book publicised as ‘edited by….’? Of course not.
It’s you who do the PR and you who get the accolades or the grief. Hence the immaculate conception.
A screenplay is totally different because in terms of the creative process, you as the writer have very little power over what finally ends up on screen. Yes, you might well come up with the initial concept and you will certainly put the initial layer of flesh on the bones but generally speaking, your place is and always will be on the bottom rung of a very long development ladder. Indeed, a script will go through so many rewrites it might as well be written in pencil and it’s certainly safe to say that by the time it gets to the point when a director calls ‘action’, the shooting script will be very different from your initial draft
There are of course, very specific reasons for this be they creative improvements the director has made or something as mundane as location, cast or budget. Yet however much it might irritate you as the writer, everything is underpinned by one very simple fact and that is that everyone involved in the process wants to get the best thing on screen that they possibly can.
And that is the key difference. For unlike a novel, a script is a true collaboration and your pages are usually the starting point. Or to use my original statement, the egg.
You see, simple.
This is of course, totally different if you write a novel and then adapt it for the screen as I have just done with Top Dog. But that’s an entirely different subject which I will no doubt end up talking about in therapy one day!
Mention of Top Dog leads me nicely into the latest news and that is that the release date for the DVD is 26th May. I’m also hoping that the novel will be reissued in print about the same time and that can be pre-ordered from Amazon but if you’re desperate, you can download it by clicking here.
There has been talk of a London premiere as well as some screenings and news of those will be posted on Twitter and Facebook as soon as the details are released.
Casting is currently underway on We Still Kill The Old Way with shooting due to start on May 5th. I’ve seen a provisional list and if even half of it comes off, it’ll be amazing!
Again, keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for details.
Happy days indeed.
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