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The Vanity of a Format

I've written plenty of times about disappointment and failure, particularly with respect to writing, so you might think I have a more realistic expectation by now of what the world has in store for me.  I don't.  I still get caught up in the childish notion that worldwide fame and limitless fortune is just around the corner.

I dream so hard that I convince myself it's simply a matter of having a better game plan.  It has nothing to do with luck or perseverance or timing or - pshaw - talent.  No, something as lofty and difficult as a career in creative writing, a pursuit attempted by millions, couldn't possibly require a thick skin and a hard ass.  It's just a matter of being clever, right?  Think of a unique marketing strategy and you won't have to work hard at all.

This is how I end up chewing at a false pursuit and wasting time.  Instead of doing actual work, I'll loaf and think about what my next secret move is going to be.

And that's where format becomes an issue.

For a long time in my twenties, I swore off writing novels because I felt I'd be more likely to get my big break if I could sell a screenplay instead.  So I exclusively wrote scripts for a matter of years.  I wound up with half a dozen and I've got the desire to share precisely zero of them.

It wasn't necessarily a bad idea.  I love movies - you might have noticed - and I love writing, so naturally, writing movies made sense.  The problem was my vanity.  I didn't study screenplays or try to learn anything about the format.  I just had this superficial notion that, hey, my stories are the best, and if I can make tons of money from it, I oughta write a screenplay.

For that matter, I probably wouldn't have come back around to writing novels again if I hadn't heard one too many stories about some lucky self-publishing bastard who made it big with their book.  Lucky thing I've been humbled a bit or I'd still be making the same mistakes with my novels.

Now, it may seem obvious that the trick here is to actually give a crap about telling a good story and making it as good as you can.  But that's not how my brain works.  After decades of self-delusion, I've been cursed with this silly obsession with format.  There's a part of me that says, "I have to stick with novels only from now on - any other format is a waste of my time."

And then there's another part of me that says, "Sure, but what if I really want to tell a story that works better as a movie?"

And then I start arguing with myself and I don't get any work done.  See above - I get caught up in lofty, self-serving ideals.

Which is why I'm waffling with myself now on what to do with an action/horror premise I came up with not long ago.  I don't want to give too much away because a lot of the impact would come from not knowing the turn, but essentially it boils down to "a crime lord and his goons fight a slasher villain."

The marketing / branding / delusion part of me says I need to turn it into a novel because that's what I do.  I just can't think of a good way to tell it in that format.  I wanted to use it as a springboard to play with action movie tropes - how do you do that in a book?

Then Jason did one of those neck-breaking moves that special ops guys do, only he didn't get it right the first time and he threw out his shoulder, so the guy he was trying to kill flipped him over and they got into a knife fight.

It's not going to work in any other format, so I've started writing it as a screenplay.  Yet I can't help but feel... I don't know, almost guilty somehow.  As if I'm betraying myself by straying off my elaborate career plans, which mostly consist of "try to self-publish a new novel each year."

If nothing else, I think I need to write this just to purge it from my system.  Maybe it'll be an awesome script and I'll sell it, maybe it'll just end up buried with the rest of my bad ideas.  At least once it's out, I think I can move on.