I’m in the process of writing my first book. I’ve written and sold feature length screenplays, treatments, and short stories, but I’ve always wanted to tackle a long form writing project. In the past, if you wrote a novel and nobody wanted it, you’ve kind of wasted your time, but if you wrote a screenplay and nobody wanted it, you could go out and make the movie for cheap on your own. So in the past 10 years, I wrote a lot of screenplays and made some movies.
But times have changed. Any monkey and his uncle can publish on Kindle or Createspace so there’s little excuse now. I finished a festival tour late last year and worked on some short films early in 2011 so by April, I was pretty burned out on collaborative projects. Fellow writer and Portland native, Amber LaPraim, told me she was working on a novel and suggested I give it a shot. Even though writing is a solitary endeavor, it’s nice to have someone with whom to share milestones.
I did some research and learned about the obvious stuff like formatting, word counts, and what sells vs. what doesn’t. Almost everyone said to write a character-based series if you want to succeed in sales. But if filmmaking has taught me anything, it’s that a walkthrough will always make the scene better on the actual shooting day. So I went through the idea list and landed on a stand-alone, one-off horror story I had framed out for a screenplay. It has a simple arc, a single point-of-view, and has some solid scenes in it. If the book sucks, I won’t feel too bad about losing this idea or turning it into a screenplay later. I also have ideas for series (serieses?), but if I blow it on the first book, nobody will come back for the second or third. The story I’m going with is called Progeny, and it’s my walkthrough for novel writing.
A screenplay is 90 to 120 pages, usually. Common knowledge to anyone who writes or reads screenplays. But how long is a book? It didn’t take me long to figure out that readers talk in page count, but authors talk in word count. Problem is that publishers don’t list word count in book specs. That’s because they’re selling to readers! A little help from Amber cleared things up for me. By the way, another great thing about having a writing partner is that sometimes she already knows everything you don’t.