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Writer's Notes: Dream Day Job?

As I've been working on the outline for the baseball novel the past few days (and having a ball), I got to thinking about what makes this process so fun to me. I'm an organizer, so I love taking a ton of random things and putting them together and making sense of them -- in the case of this novel, it's organizing what little research there is about the team I'm basing the novel on, plus tons of history about the teens and the buildup to the first world war, as well as the individual stories of the coach and the players and their strange outfielder. And then there's the game of baseball, and what it was like back in 1915 versus today.

All of these divergent story elements have to come together in some sort of comprehensible narrative in my novel. Usually I'd be feeling overwhelmed by this point ("How the hell am I going to make this work???"), but I'm enjoying it. I feel like I could go anywhere with the story, and that's exciting me instead of freaking me out.

Which all lead me to think that a cool Day Job, other than writing fiction full-time, that is, would be to adapt novels into screenplays. I'm probably being totally naive about this, as I've never written a full-length screenplay myself, but I imagine the process for condensing a 300- to 400-page novel into a 120-page screenplay would be quite similar to what I'm doing with my novel outline.

You'd have to know your subject matter inside and out (in this case, the original novel, which makes it nice -- only one source to check!). You'd have to make some hard decisions, because you just can't include everything in the movie that's in the book (though they tried in the first two interminable Harry Potter movies, and look how SLOW those flicks are!). You'd have to stay true to the author's intentions and themes, while still creating something more or less new (though in the case of "Shawshank Redemption," I don't think screenwriter Frank Darabont diverged TOO much from Stephen King's excellent novella). You'd have to decide which novel dialog to keep, which to toss, which to change, and then put words into the movie characters' mouths that SOUND like what the novel characters would say.

In the end, you'd come up with a screenplay that stays true to the novel, but because it's a new medium, a lot has changed. And you'll tick people off, as a result, but hopefully not the audience -- you've got to make the movie stand on its own, even if millions of people have read the book and have their own preconceptions of what the characters and story should be (look at the great job Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and Peter Jackson did with a novel that was voted Novel of the 20th Century).

If you tick the author off, that's too bad, but in any case, you'll be sure to cash your screenwriter's check! ;)

I think it would be a fun challenge, much more exciting that writing and editing online training content for IBM, but that's just me...

Now to get back to the novel outlining. After I write that novel, though, I think I'll do my original screenplay idea, and after that, maybe I'll try and adapt one of my own novels, just for fun. I'll let you know how it goes -- look out Anthony Minghella! Later...

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