Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Talkback: Reader question - "Do I have to choose?"

For today's Tuesday Talkback, I'm going to do something a little different. I got a reader question that I don't have an especially good answer for, so I'm going to poll you guys and hope you've got some good tips.

Erika writes:

I write prose fiction, have attempted to write novels, and have recently started screenwriting. How do I know which form is right for me? How long do you think I should try to do both?

I'm not sure if someone else will ever be in a position to tell you what's right for you. It's one of those things where you just... know. If you've tried each form, have you found a particular form more conducive to communicating the sorts of stories you're interested in telling? Do you find it difficult to work within the constraints of some of those mediums?

It's also possible you might have an affinity for several. There's no rule that says you have to choose just one. I've got a friend who writes scripts and prose novels and he's pretty adept at both. It just takes practice.

What do you guys think?


  1. I agree.

    I write both, as well as flash, shorts and the occasional editorial. The more you write (anything) the better you become as a writer. Branching out into different mediums is (IMO) an excellent way to strengthen that writing muscle.

  2. I am of the opinion that you should pick a concentration and become expert at it. As you probably know by now...screenwriting isn't the "lazy" version of writing. In fact, all the rules make it very constrictive and demanding. Tough to be creative in this box past the 1st draft.

    So...if you don't want too many rules you...go for novels.

    I chose screenwriting because I love TV and Movies more than books. a sad and pathetic commentary on outr education system? Maybe...but I'm happy.

  3. In my experience the story itself often dictates the form it takes. For example, I recently had an idea that I liked. The visual elements of the concept were too important/too much fun for it to be a novel, but the story itself was too slow moving/cerebral to be a movie. So it's a graphic novel. I followed its lead.

    Now, yes, somebody who has cultivated expertise as a novelist would probably be able to convey said visual elements using prose, and an expert screenwriter could capture that slow moving cerebral-ness within the rules of the form. But I am an expert at neither.

    And sure, you're the writer, you can change your story however you want, make it fit the form you need it to. But remember, when Bob Dylan had a folk song in his head, he wrote folk music; when he had a blues song in his head, he wrote blues; and when he had a rock and roll song in his head, he wrote rock and roll.

  4. I've been writing for about 6 years (3 years sporadically and 3 years up to 20 hours a week). I started with short stories and poetry until I got 2 of each published in literary journals. Then I started writing personal essays and articles too, until I got 2 of each of those published. Then I moved on to bigger projects and in the last 2 years have completed 2 screenplays and a book.

    Some people do best focused on one form, others are adept at various forms (or adept in different forms at different times) but ultimately, for me anyway, the story dictates the form, just as Max said.