Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Island Time . . .

By Sean Chercover

DATELINE: Key Largo. So, it's February, and it's about 78 degrees outside. That's the good news. The bad? The place I'm staying in has no Internet access. A small price to pay for a tropical February. As Trapper said, "We have to make some concessions to the war."

Oh, Marcus is here too. He says "Hi". I'll tell him you say "Hi" back.

We're writing a screenplay together.

It's been a few years since I've written in screenplay format. Obviously, it's very different than writing a novel. Between Big City Bad Blood and Trigger City, I spent some time writing short stories. Nowhere near as different as a screenplay, but still, the short story demands a level of discipline and economy way beyond the novel.

That's why I find short stories so hard to write.

But I think my second book benefited from what I learned during my time spent in Short Story Land. Will my next book benefit from the time spent in Screenplayland? I suspect that it might. There's so much focus on structure in screenwriting, and I find that I'm paying more attention to structure issues as I plot the next novel.

One thing that has surprised the hell out of me during this trip: Marcus and I have found that we can write together without bloodshed or tears. This is very good news.

There's a lot more February left, but so far, so good. If both Marcus and I return from Florida with all our limbs, you'll know that it stayed good.

I can't imagine co-writing a book with someone, but film is by nature a collaborative medium, and a screenplay is not a finished product. The film is the finished product; the screenplay is the blueprint for that product. So to me, it seems film is the perfect medium for collaborative writing.

Any of you switch between mediums in your writing? How does writing for one improve your writing in another? Or does it?

And what of collaboration? What's your take?


Mark Combes said...

I've always found that the shorter the project, the harder it is to write. Poems are harder than short stories that are harder than novels. That kind of thing.

And I agree that screen writing lends itself to a collaborative process. And I think screen writing is real good for a novelist to try. Movies are a visual medium and creating good visuals in a screenplay is critical. And that skill translates well to novels.

Have a margarita for me (on the rocks, of course) and remember, Fins Up!

jnantz said...

I write shorts and novel-length fiction, but then I'm pre-pubbed so not sure if that helps your discussion much. I will say this, though: I admire you guys for being creative and collaborative without anybody's ego getting in the way. I'm such a control freak in my classroom (because I know what will make my students successful, dammit, I've been doing it long enough haven't I???), I can't imagine myself working well with a partner...even if it was somebody I considered a friend. Good on ya both!

Jude Hardin said...

A screenplay? Key Largo?

I have a feeling there's A LOT more to this story than what we're getting in this blog post.

Are you guys writing on spec? Is this an adaptation? Why the hell Key Largo?


Steerpike said...

I'm glad to hear you two are managing to get along, Sean - I couldn't write with Marcus without bloodshed or tears. ;)

Tell him I say "hi" right back, and see about getting some internet access down there in the boonies.

Kevin Guilfoile said...

I just finished a screenplay in collaboration with a film director, and I really enjoyed it. It helped to work with someone who was coming at it a little more visually and structurally than I was. It was fun. And I love those big margins. The pages pile up fast.

I didn't go to the Keys, though. Bastards.

FizzWater said...

You ask me, you should call this post Tropical Fruits.