Angst, Handwringing, and Screenwriting

I live in Los Angeles. I live approximately 15 miles from major studios that  you all know and love, such as Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, and countless other small independents. There are thousands of other businesses dependent on the movie industry, including catering, trucks, lights, sound, costumes, props, post production, special effects, and so on.

And, it seems if you’re a writer in Los Angeles, you really MUST have a screenplay.

So I was well aware of the fact that, having taken up the authorial title with the intent to produce an opus for Amazon that no one will buy but my closest blog friends (yeah, I’m lookin’ at all twenty of you. It’s going to cost you, this relationship!), I do not have the desire to write a screenplay. Despite the easy money falling off trees into the baskets of those hard-working screenwriters, I haven’t curled up with any self-help screenplay how-to books.

Enter the blog of Kristin Lamb. Many of you know her through her  blog devoted to improving fiction writing of anyone who will read. She is inspiring and also a kick in the arse for whomever will listen to her advice.  Yesterday, she posted a piece on Your Novel in One Sentence. It was essentially a breakdown of content found in the book, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

Save the Cat is a book on how to write a screenplay. It encompasses things like genre, structure, and the one line that describes your movie, the logline. I made fun of a random internet plot generator in this post, but that thing is actually producing loglines correctly. It’s not very good at what it does, in that none of the ideas were viable, but it has the format correct and it’s doing better than most authors, if they ever bothered to summarize their novels at all.

I’ve only read a third of Snyder’s book and it’s eye-opening. I see application from screenplay into the world of novels. One of the drums he bangs most loudly is that there are rules and you can break them, but if you want to be successful you probably should stick to the rules.

Therein lies the source of most of the authorly angst that may be out there. If you’re selling a screenplay or you’re selling a book, you must be able to sum it up in about the size of a twitter post.  Tell me what your book is about in 140 characters or less. Most books don’t know what they’re about, and that gets them lost in the slush. When someone reviews the book, can they state what it’s about in less than a paragraph? I looked at Ionia’s reviews of books, and note that her style is to state the premise of the book in a paragraph (2-3 sentences). I think those are not the book blurb but her own words.

When you write, do you write for the audience, or are you creating lit-ah-rah-ture? Do you want to sell your book, or are you just trying to be an artist? People who write for a living write for the audience. The other one starves or lives off others or has a Real Job.

If you’re an indy author, do you pay attention to any of the things necessary to market your novel to publishers and agents, or do you disregard such focusing devices? Is there value in having concise summations of your novel? Are successful authors on Amazon due to having the conciseness in summation and marketing to an audience the retread story formats we know and love?