A Cinematic Book

We made the quarterfinals of the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition! (Update… we made the semifinals!)

Just got the word that we made the semifinals of ScreenCraft’s competition for “cinematic” books, which means script readers could see this as a movie.

There are a lot of great books that wouldn’t make good movies. To be made into a movie, a book needs a visual language. Long ago, we took a series of classes from Dale Wasserman, who wrote the play “Man of La Mancha.” He wrote the “book” of the play (as opposed to the music and lyrics — although he maintained some of the lyrics were lifted from his text). He also wrote for film and tv as well as theater.

He said that books are the most literate art form, then plays, then film, then tv. It wasn’t an insult — it’s just that film and tv are more dependent on visuals than language. Language matters in film and tv, but first, you have to have pictures.

Mark and I have placed in screenwriting contests, and Mark writes in pictures. He’s good about prodding me to look at what I’m writing and think about what it looks like. “It’s a movie in the reader’s head,” he told me one time. “When I read, I see it and hear it.” Plus, he trained me in producing for radio, where creating mental pictures is what it’s all about. It’s something I still work on… as you can tell, I tend to be verbal.

Lots of writing is you alone with your thoughts and your computer (or notebook, or…). I talk to myself when I’m writing, wondering if anyone but me will understand what I’m trying to convey. There’s no way to tell until someone reads it. First we had beta readers, then did live readings, then got feedback from a reviewer, and at every stage, examined what was working and what wasn’t. Every time a reader says they enjoyed it, and tells me what connected with them, I want to cheer. Now we’re querying it. It’s a terrifying process.

I overwrite, then have to cut like the villain in a slasher film. There’s always a struggle to cut what is “extra” without taking all the juice out of it.

To know that the ScreenCraft readers, who have never met me and don’t know what I sound like, “hear” and “see” this novel is a joy. Congratulations to my fellow semifinalists, and to everyone who completed a novel they were proud enough of to enter it in a competition — that’s a big achievement right there.

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