WRITING: Considerations before becoming a novelist…

When asked, many people will say they want to write a novel, but do they? While there are many considerations to make before embarking on this fickle career, these are some of the basic considerations you might want to ponder:

  1. Can I tell the story in less than 10,000 words?
  2. Can I create multiple characters all equally able to be protagonists in their own stories?
  3. Can I suspend the disbelief of my readers?
  4. Do I have the stamina to create a 80,000 word novel?
  5. Do I have more than one novel in me?
  6. Can I handle making less than minimum wage while I work almost 24/7?
  7. Can I handle the ridicule and stupid remarks if I go public?

The reason you need to consider these questions:

  1. 10,000 words is a short story. Novels take up more words.
  2. A protagonist needs peers and antagonists, who need to be equal to the protagonist to make the story interesting.
  3. Readers want to be immersed in a story, they want to believe in your characters. So the desire is there. If you weave a story that makes believers out of readers, you can be a writer.
  4. Although everything over 60,000 words can be called a novel, most novels are between 80,000-100,000 words. If you write a 1000 usable words a day, that means about three solid months of writing.
  5. Most successful authors are prolific with at least 5+ novels to their name. There are exceptions, but don’t imagine yourself to be one of them.
  6. Do you know the author Philip K. Dick? People who are serious about storytelling are generally in awe of his storytelling ability. His novels and short stories form the basis of movies like Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, Paycheck and a host of others. Even in his best years, Dick rarely earned more than 12,000$ per year. In fact, most writers don’t earn more than 10,000$ per year and most earn considerably less. Even Stephen King had to support his family with his teaching job for the first decade of his career. And James Patterson made his money in advertising before he turned to writing fiction.
  7. I’m fortunate that most people don’t want to antagonize me (based on my size and my encyclopedic knowledge of murder), but even I get disparaging remarks, or questions how much I earn with my books, or people who think their ideas are sufficiently interesting that they can tell them to me and I ‘just write them down’. Not to mention the many many people who would love to write a book, if only they had the time. Of course, the idiocy gets balanced by people who are genuinely awed by a writer’s ability to create stories and characters ‘out of thin air’ and readers writing you about the character they like the most and ask if that character will be featured in the upcoming book. Still, a writer needs thick skin. If you’re sensitive and insecure about your own abilities, you might want to reconsider choosing writing fiction as a career.

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OPINION: Movie Adaptations of Novels and Short Stories.

As someone asked me about my attitude towards movie adaptations of the Amsterdam Assassin Series, I thought about movie adaptations in general, the ones who were superior to the novels, the ones who were equal, and the disappointments.

I’m a huge Philip K. Dick fan, but I do prefer Blade Runner to Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. I read Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but the Milos Forman movie adaption cemented Jack Nicholson’s maniacal McMurphy in my mind. I love Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange just as much as the Kubrick movie. The movie The Dead Zone is an improvement on the Stephen King novel, with an excellent Christopher Walken, just as Kubrick’s The Shining is superior to the King novel, but, while the movie is excellent, Shawshank Redemption is slightly less moving than the King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Kick-Ass the movie is slightly more fun than the graphic novel. The Pope of Greenwich Village was much better than the novel by Vincent Patrick. Papillon the movie impressed me more than Papillon the novel. Perfume the movie was pretty good at conveying smell in visual images, but the novel’s prose is superior. Shogun the miniseries is flawed but impressive, but the novel is excellent (although Clavell’s King Rat is a superior novel, with an also excellent movie adaption.

Disappointing to me, as a Philip K. Dick fan, are the movie adaptions of We Can Remember It For You Wholesale [Total Recall] and Paycheck. A Scanner Darkly was pretty good, but not as good as Dick’s story. And Minority Report [movie], while visually impressive, seems only to have tentative connections to the excellent short story by Dick.

Personally, I think that a movie adaption of the Amsterdam Assassin Series would skate over the multi-layered storyline and would become an action/adventure vehicle that would be too superficial to appeal to the readers who love the series intricacies. Plus, I think Katla’s chameleon-like abilities to be eminently forgettable and melt into the background would suffer from being associated with the image of any actress, who prefer to be anything but forgettable.

Comments welcome!