I hate to grumble. You know, complain about things. But when I see or hear stuff that gets me upset, well just ask my wife. She will turn up the radio if we’re in the car. At home she switches on the TV. I can take a hint. Really. Thing is her actions don’t stop the grumbling in my head. I just go underground.
What I’m grumbling about at the moment is howpeople are asked to write things like their bio or blurbs about the book they’ve written. Let me give you my viewpoint and I’m sure the experts in the publishing world will all tell me I’m WRONG.
I have been involved in the movie business all my life. To give you perspective, about one script page equals a minute of screen time. So, a ninety page screenplay should work out to be about a ninety minute movie. There is no doubt in my mind I should be able to reduce that ninety pages to a one page document we call a “one-sheet.” It MUST be compelling. Grab the reader and tell him in about three-hundred words exactly what the movie is about. I should also be able to write a sentence (maybe two) called a log-line that should sum up the entire movie.
Why? Because I will probably have less time than an elevator ride to sell someone on the film. That’s the movies folks. Has always been that way. Learning how to write these pitches is an art. People specialize in just this thing.
Now to my grumbling thing. Today in this social media driven, blog based world where people can’t seem to read more that 250 words before they’re board and move on to the next thing, there has become this incessant drive to do this same “one-sheet/log-line” selling model for novels and even people’s biographies.
I have researched the process of creating a query letter, writing pitch materials, making up the book description (or synopsis) to be used on the back cover or inside flap and all the author platform junk that includes the author bio. Everything has to be compelling! Even your bio has to excite people like a log-line for a feature film. What’s up with that? It’s hard to make the existence of my BFA and MA exciting. It wasn’t exciting! It was a lot of damn work much of it boring as hell. I ran companies, wrote and produced feature films and I’m here to tell you the hours and work far outweighed the excitement. Yes, I did win several awards for my films and I guess that was exciting for about ten minutes but life in show biz is all about, “What have you done for me lately?” Not exciting.
So, let’s take a novel. There’s the writing. Lots of writing. I hate to admit it but writing is exciting to me. The discovery that takes place. The getting to know the folks you have created. The curves those characters throw at you along with story turns you didn’t see coming is fun to experience. But then there is the editing. Need I say more. The point of writing a novel vs. making a movie is with the novel you have time and space to develop complex characters and intricate story lines. A 300 page novel can never be reduced to a two hour movie. The notion I can create a one-sheet and log-line for a novel that looks and feels like those for films is absurd. It’s as crazy as the idea that if I write a novel I have to have a niche market all picked out with a perfect genre selection to adhere to. It’s all about sales. Right? Sorry publishing world. For some authors the story they have to tell is what’s important. My current novel is complex and I’m sure confusing at times but the girl is suffering with a major dissociative disorder! The reader is experiencing it from the inside. I didn’t give market niche or genre much thought. To me it was a horror story.
Sure, when I made movies I slotted each film into a specific market niche so I made sure it would sell to a distributor. You have to. Movies cost a lot of money. Writing a novel costs time. Time I’m willing to spend. I do want to sell copies of my book because I want people to read it. To me, it’s important. Knocking out a 90 page screenplay can be done very quickly. I don’t want to take away from writing the original story with all the research that goes into that but it is a quick endeavor. Writing 75,000+ words is not a quick endeavor. I was glad for that master’s degree by the time I finished my current novel because the level of research I had to do was massive.
There is a balance that must be struck when developing pitch materials for a novel. People from consumers to agents and publishers need to take a big breath and look deeper into the words a novelist uses to describe his story. It isn’t a two hour film. A novel is a place where people live out life’s intricate moments and emotions. A place where we as writers drive deep into the core of what make us tick. A place where the question, “Why?” might get an answer that opens doorways in our own minds. Just saying.
Okay, you can turn off the TV and turn down the radio. Grumble time is over.