Writing the screenplay for #PROVECTUS, Take Four

scene boardSo . . . a few months ago I decided to adapt my own novel, PROVECTUS: Survival of the Fittest, for the big screen.

It has been a lot harder to do than I expected.

My first approach was the wrong one. Up until now, the screenplays I have written have been from scratch. Stories straight out of the ol’ noggin.

This was the first time (and perhaps the last!) that I’ve tried to adapt a book. So I looked in the mirror and asked myself if I could option the rights to the story. I thought about it for a few minutes, then said yes. Ha ha!

Take 1: I’d spent years writing the novel and wanted to save as much of the dialogue (over which I’d spilled much blood, sweat and tears) as possible. Not only that, but my oh my! The scenery! The drama! The love story! Yep. Let’s cram it all in there.

So I took a PDF of the book, copied the text into Final Draft and proceeded to add scene headings, remove any internal thoughts and other “novel-y” things, and voila! I had a screenplay . . .

. . .that was approximately 250 pages long.

As I am no Aaron Sorkin (yet), I knew this wasn’t going to work.

Take 2: My next attempt was to write the story out from memory. That started out well, but  I would get to a spot in the story where I’d think, Hmm… I did this pretty well in the novel. If I just copy this little, tiny bit of dialogue and description, and, and, and . . . Nope. No go.

Take 3: So I went back to the 250 page version and tried to delete big chunks of stuff I thought I could do without. Talk about killing your darlings! I spent days doing this and ended up with a gutted story that was still a whopping 170 pages. And after I read it through, I found it was missing too many sequences that are important to the main story and theme.

Take Four.

I finally thought, this is harder than I thought it would be. After all, who knows my story better than I do? Who better to write the screenplay? And that, in the end, was the problem I think. I was essentially trying to write the book all over again, but in screenplay format.

Finally I realized that I needed to learn the right way to adapt a novel. No matter who wrote the novel (whether it be me or someone else), there is a right way to go about it. I finally found that way by reading The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film.

This is the book that finally gave me the know-how I needed to do this right. You’ll have to read Seger’s book to get all the juicy details (and great examples from some classic adaptations), but it boils down to the following:

  • Pick out the main story line(s),
  • Choose your characters. You may need to remove or merge some. You may even need to create entirely new characters!
  • Figure out what the theme is (if it’s not obvious, or if there are too many, pick one),
  • Know that you might have to move scenes around, or delete/add scenes or entire story lines.

Crazy stuff, that.

And so I made a list of key plot points that tied into the “A” story and theme. I merged a few sequences. I merged two supporting characters into one. Whenever I came to a scene where I asked myself if I should include it, the main story and theme were my guides. Does the main story (or theme) still work without that scene/character/dialogue? Then cut it. You’ll end up with a lean, mean screenplay.

Now we’re cooking with gas, my friends!

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#PROVECTUS Book Signing in Ventura, CA on Feb 18, 2017

I’m very grateful to the Bank of Books in Ventura, CA for holding a book signing event for my thriller, PROVECTUS: Survival of the Fittest on Saturday, February 18th (2017) from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM.

Funny story…

I woke up before my alarm on Friday morning, February 3rd with the thought, “Oh my god! I have a book signing this month!”

I sat up in bed and frantically started scrolling through my emails on my phone. When’s the date? When’s the date? Please don’t let it be too soon!

Well, turns out it was scheduled for the following day, February 5th. Oh lord. I felt like an idiot. I quickly contacted my publicist, Book Sparks, and they were able to get it rescheduled to February 18th. What a relief! Thank you Mariah!

And a huge THANK YOU to Bank of Books for accommodating my brain cramp. It’s really not like me at all. They’d sent out press releases and everything. Gah.

I’m pulling out the stops to get as many people as I can out to this event. It may actually end up being the last signing event I have this season.

Then it will be time to focus on finishing the screenplay for PROVECTUS, as well as finish writing book 2.

I hope you will join me at Bank of Books in Ventura on Saturday, February 18th from 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM!

Location:
748 E Main St
Ventura, CA 93001
low-res-event-poster

A Fresh Start in 2017

Happy New Year folks!

The past few weeks have brought rain to my little town in Southern California. This cleared the air and made for an amazing first day of 2017. Everything is fresh and clean as a new year should be!

Yesterday the universe blessed me with a double rainbow:

double-rainbow

What better omen for a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year could one ask for? Speaking of omens, why does that word carry such negative connotations? (Thanks Hollywood!)

Let’s instead say it offers the promise of a fabulous year.

This year I hope to finish book two of my PROVECTUS series (and the screenplay for book one). It has been difficult to write this second book. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t know if anyone really cares if there will actually be a book two or not? Or if it’s because now that I’ve done it once, I know how much work still stands ahead of me? LOL!

As for the first question, I do know a few people that have asked for a sequel. They are loyal fans and by god they deserve a second book if they want one! So for you – my wonderful readers – I will continue writing the second book (the name of which I will reveal later in the year).

As for the second question, well YEAH writing is hard. But it’s also fun and rewarding, right? That’s why we do it! That’s why I do it anyway. If all it was was hard, there are things I’d rather be doing with my time.

So I wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year of doing whatever it is you most enjoy!

Happy New Year

 

The Journey of Writing a Screenplay

My novel, PROVECTUS, Survival of the Fittest, was “born” on October 4, 2016.

As someone who has always loved movies and TV, it was only natural that the next step in my author’s journey would be writing a screenplay. Those who have read my novel tell me, “This would make a great movie!” And you know what? I agree! It’s certainly a movie that I myself would like to see, if that’s any indication.

So as fitting with my personality, I immediately bought a bunch of books on writing screenplays (including How NOT to Write a Screenplay, by Denny Martin Flinn and The Screenwriter’s Bible, by David Trotter). I spent weeks re-watching my favorite movies, this time with a copy of the screenplay on my lap. What a blast!

Then I set about transcribing my novel to screenplay format. Whew! What a chore. It took me longer than I thought it would. Longer than it probably should have. And now I have to edit it with ruthless abandon. Still, I consider it a good sign that I enjoyed reading it once again (I can’t even guess how many times I’ve had to read my manuscript over the years).

When you write a novel, you include all kinds of stuff that you don’t generally want in a screenplay.

For example, internal thoughts (unless you’re doing a narrated type of thing). You also don’t want a lot of description of the scenery, or what people are wearing, or what they’re doing when they’re talking (much of that is left to the director and/or the actors) unless it’s relevant to the story.

So keeping that in mind, I’ll tell you that my novel is approximately 80,000 words. The paperback version of the book is 372 pages.

My screenplay (admittedly just a draft) is 240 pages. Screenplays should be 100-120 pages long. Especially debuts. If you’re Aaron Sorkin, you can write a 300 page screenplay and the director will work with you on cutting it down (“The American President” screenplay’s extras turned into West Wing material). Needless to say, I am not Aaron Sorkin.

So the questions I’m asking myself are:

  • How do I convey so many important internal thoughts without the stereotypical info dump dialogue (e.g., “Well Joe, as you know, Mary can’t have children since that horrible accident at the clown rodeo last summer.”) or having a guy talk to his cat all the time?
  • Which scenes can I cut? Are there scenes which may have filled out a novel nicely, but are not really necessary to convey the story in movie format?
  • Is there any content that can’t be SEEN by a camera that should be re-written or removed? (E.g., “Joe was an avid reader.” How do we know this? Is he surrounded by dogeared books and sits reading one as we watch? Are there days’ worth of fast food containers strewn about the room?)

I loved writing my novel, but I really think I’ve found my passion in screenwriting. I’m not a verbose person. I’m not one of those writers that spew out 300,000 words and have to “kill my darlings.” No. For me, it was an effort to come up with a full-length novel (I don’t know what he’s wearing! Who cares what he’s doing while he’s talking? Do we really need to know what the restaurant they’re eating in looks like?)

It is down-right liberating to write a screenplay and let the director and actors worry about things that were a struggle for me to describe. With screenplays I get to focus on the MEAT of the story.

Yes, I have to give context, but with a screenplay it’s what happened, when, and to whom.

BAM. Done.

Love it.

October – #PROVECTUS Birth Month

October is my favorite month.

It’s the month of my birthday, my anniversary, and my favorite holiday – Halloween! Fall is officially here. The leaves change (yes, we do have seasons in California). The weather gets cooler (mostly).

And now October is also the “birthday” of my debut novel, PROVECTUS, Survival of the Fittest. Officially, the release date is October 4, 2016. Though they tell us not to focus too much on the actual release date, but rather the weeks before and after that date.

But how can I not focus on that date for my very first novel? After years of hard work, it will finally venture out into the world. That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me.

So keep an eye on my blog for book signings in the Ventura County area!

And please get yourself a copy from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, or from Mrs. Figs’ Bookworm. Don’t be afraid to ask a bookstore to carry my book if they don’t already have it! It’s available for them to order through Ingram Publishing Services.

I hope the world enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

#PROVECTUS has gone to press!

The other day I reviewed the final draft of my new thriller novel, PROVECTUS, Survival of the Fittest.

It looks amazing!

Fellow writers, I must warn you . . . you will NEVER find EVERY typo. So at some point you just need to let it go. I have a very keen eye. And I continue to find things even after scouring every sentence, word,  and punctuation mark.

I did, however, find a timeline issue very late in the game! It was something I didn’t see until I had the ARC in my hands. I just never noticed it on the digital versions I was using to proof it. Thankfully, it was a relatively easy fix. But wow. Next time I will pay to print a physical copy just for proofing. And I don’t mean an 8.5 x 11 printed version. I mean an ARC- sized version.

Maybe that’s just me.

So part of going to press with a hybrid publisher means I had to pay for the copies now even though my release date isn’t until the first week of October. Ouch!

However, I did get some orders from Barnes & Noble as well as a handful of independent bookstores. Yay! That’s one way She Writes Press really stands out. Their books are distributed by Ingram Publisher Services. Their sales force takes meetings with retailers and gets those retailers to stock/carry their titles. You don’t get THAT with self publishing!

My ARCs have arrived!

When I got home from work Thursday night, there was a box on my front porch. I didn’t think much of it. My husband likes to shop, so I thought, “Wonder what he got this time?”

To my surprise, he started to open it then stopped. “Hey!” he said. “This has your name on it!”

I told him I didn’t remember ordering anything and asked him to open the box.

To my utter surprise and pleasure, the advanced reader copies of my novel (aka, ARC) were inside!

MY ARCS!!

What beauties! To finally hold my book in my hands literally gave me chills of excitement. To open the smooth cover and see my own words on the cream-colored pages inside was unreal.

With these ARCs I will solicit “blurbs” from other authors. Authors already famous. Authors I admire.

I will ask bookstores to carry my book. I will ask bloggers to review my book. Eventually, when I get the final version (not just the ARCs), I will ask readers to read my book. And hope that they enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

It takes courage . . . and no small amount of arrogance to be a writer I think. I have to present this work to the world and say, “Hey! Read this! It will be worth your time, I promise you.”

Hello world. I present to you my novel. My baby. My blood, sweat and tears.

My novel, PROVECTUS, Survival of the Fittest, has arrived.

PROVECTUS_final cover (draft) - trim

 

Looming Deadlines, or #amwriting

I’m pleased to say that things are moving along quite nicely with my novel! We’ve essentially finalized the cover art (looks amazing! I hope to share soon) and my manuscript should be moving into layout any day now. Meaning it will look like a real book, not just a ream of paper. It’s so exciting!

The challenge I’m facing at the moment is with my PR responsibilities. My PR firm, BookSparks, has been just wonderful. They have some fantastic ideas to promote my novel (and me) as a debut author. However, one of those ideas includes something they call “content strategy.” These are original pieces of content that will be used to promote my book to national media. They’re what you might call human interest stories.

Now, I wrote my novel because I had this story stuck in my head and I soon discovered I was the only one that could write it. It took four long years, but write it I did. I have other novels that seem to be taking me just as much time to write, but I know I’ll finish them. I have to or they won’t leave me alone. Actually, the fact that my first novel took me four years to write is one reason I chose to publish with She Writes Press. They’re not going to pester me with “What are you writing now? When’s your next novel? What about the one after that?” Kinda like when you get engaged and then everyone wants to know when you’re getting married. Then when are you having a kid. Then another kid. Augh!

Anyway, a writing career with SWP means I can move at my own pace. Within reason, of course. Once you submit your manuscript, they do expect you to work with them to edit it and get it to press within their deadlines. But as an author, being published is what you really want too, right?

Writing these content pieces is another type of challenge altogether.

While I like the ideas they gave me, I did not choose these topics. I’m not saying that I could come up with better topics. It’s just that it’s homework. I feel like I’m back in school again being told to write an essay or book report. This was just the kind of thing that made me think I hated writing.

These pieces are due Monday, April 4th. I may have to ask for more time. I hate doing that, but I also don’t want to give them drivel.

Oh, the dilemmas of a soon-to-be-published author!

I know, I know. So who ordered the whine….? Suck it up, Cupcake!

So I’m back at it this morning and the ideas are starting to dribble in. And I’ll gather the dribble until it starts to make sense. Then I’ll edit. Then I’ll edit them again until they shine.

Because that’s what real authors do.

Nine Months to Publication with @shewritespress . . . and Counting

For those interested, I’m going to chronicle my publication experience with She Writes Press, a hybrid publisher for women writers.

On November 7th, I signed with She Writes Press. Immediately, they welcomed me with a lovely email. The email also asked to fill out an information sheet about me and my novel. They needed my bio, a photo and a synopsis (actually two, the back-of-the-book copy and a full, true synopsis) for my story. On December 4th, I joined my first SWP Authors call. After the call (which included a webinar), I was sent a tip sheet to fill out (Yep! More homework already – just like you’d expect from a publisher). This requested even more information about my book such as keywords and the BISAC category (i.e., where people will find it on the shelves – both virtual and physical).

On December 15th I was sent my editorial schedule which told me me my publication date will be October 4, 2016. WOOT! Did you hear that? I said, “My publication date.” How I do love the sound of that phrase.

Anyway . . . I digress! I explicitly requested a publication date of October because it’s my favorite month.

October is the month that holds my birthday, my wedding anniversary (to the most amazing man ever), and my favorite holiday (Halloween). And now it will hold the birth of my debut novel! I couldn’t be happier.

This is one of the wonderful things about She Writes Press. Do you think any one of the “Big 5” book publishers would have taken my wishes regarding my publication month into consideration? I think not.

And thanks to my editorial schedule, I know what’s coming and when deliverables are due – both what I owe the publisher and what they owe me. For example, on December 11th I was sent the first concept for my book cover. (Even though they weren’t due to me until January.)

I loved it immediately!

My novel is a science-based thriller. The artist really captured the mystery of the story. It just needed a bit of tweaking to give it a more mainstream “thriller” vibe. I liked it so much I printed a 4 1/4″ x 7″ color copy of it and pasted it onto a book so I could see what it will look like on my bookshelf. (I created the spine too – it’s very realistic!) This is visualization at its finest, my friends.

After I’ve started working with my publicist, I’ll post images of all these things so you can see what I mean in full-color.

Speaking of publicists, I’ve elected to go with BookSparks. She Writes Press and BookSparks are both a part of the SparkPoint Studio family. I interviewed other publicists but none of them seemed to have the personal touch that BookSparks does. My contract with them begins in January.

My manuscript is due to the publisher on February 2nd. My husband generously offered to read it out loud to me. Thankfully, we both enjoyed the story and found no major plot problems. (Whew!) Thanks to his feedback, I spent three days on minor edits (mostly having to do with word choices, etc.). If he stumbled or stopped when reading an awkward sentence, that was my cue to fix things. It was an excellent experience. I’d advise other writers to do the same. Even if you have to pay someone!

Next up, I’m writing a bit for the end of the book where I’ll discuss the science behind the story in the tradition of Michael Crichton’s State of Fear or The Sixth Extinction by James Rollins. I’m hoping readers will want to know more about the science.

Because isn’t that why we love science-based thrillers?

I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed with She Writes Press! (@shewritespress)

Today I signed a contract with She Writes Press for the publication of my first novel!

It has been a long journey to get to this day. I spent four years writing the novel and almost another year querying agents. Some of the responses I got were:

[An agent at a Writer’s Digest pitch slam] “Sounds really interesting! Send me your first 50 pages.” I sent them, then . . . *crickets.*

“This project does not seem right for our agency.”

“This has a bit of overlap with a novel I recently handled [sold], so I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of representing both.” (Really? Why? Doesn’t that tell you that mine would likely sell as well?)

And the one that hurt the most – from my dream agent (who will remain unnamed): “You clearly have the ability to write, but this didn’t grab me by the ears.”

Sound at all familiar, fellow writers?

Anyway, as I get closer to the publication date (Fall 2016) I’ll speak to why I think they really didn’t want to take a chance on it. But that’s not important anymore.

I decided to approach She Writes Press, a hybrid – or “partnership” – publication model. While it is an author-subsidized press, what you get for your money is a team that is behind you and your book 100%. They help you with the back cover copy, the cover design, and the layout for each of the seemingly endless array of eBook formats. They project manage your book journey. Which is just what I needed.

Brooke Warner, publisher at She Writes Press, has been so patient and supportive through the whole due diligence process (I’m sure she began to dread my emails) as well as extremely flexible throughout contract discussions. She ROCKS. And I’m sure everyone else on my new team will be just as amazing as she is.

And as of 12:54 PM Pacific Standard Time on November 6, 2015 I am a signed author!