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When I work on a book, I’ll also work on something else simultaneously.

It won’t be another new book – it’s hard enough keeping track of all the characters, threads, and ideas for one prospective novel, let alone two. I’m always surprised when people say they’re working on two (or more) novels simultaneously. (I don’t count swapping back and forth between projects but never finishing anything.)

The closest I’ll get to working on more than one novel is if I also revise another, but only as long as it’s more so a copyedit revision, rather than a structural edit revision that might require some rewriting. As far as the copyedit goes, I might read a chapter or two (depending on their length) as warm-up for my brain. Then I feel I can flow into my work-in-progress.

Or I could revise a short story, or even write a new short story – the only qualifier here is that I have to be able to finish a draft (either writing something new, or revising an existing draft) in a single sitting, so it’s doesn’t become too much of a distraction. I want to be able to get in, get out, with it having no ongoing impact on my work-in-progress.

Poetry is something else that’s a good sideline – although, sometimes, my ruminations take me deep into the night, because I struggle to find the exact way I want to depict what I’m feeling. But it’s always cathartic, and I’ve written enough poetry now that I’m thinking of either subbing around a collection, or self-publishing it.

Lately, I’ve also been working on screenplays. I wrote screenplays prolifically through the early 2000s and had a couple optioned. I thought they were great. I had this infallible self-belief. Of course, I was an idiot. (There’s a good chance I still am.) Neither option went anywhere. In retrospect, I’m glad they didn’t.

When I look back at all those old screenplays, they’re grossly overwritten, and the narrative in a few of them is (to put it kindly) contrived. However, some are structurally sound – at least as far as the framework goes. I’ve picked the best of them out and tried to revise. At times this has meant almost rewriting from scratch, and/or fleshing out the story.

Over the last year, I’ve also written a handful of new screenplays. Compared to the 2000s vintage, they work better on every level – the way they’re written, the causality of the narrative, and the solidity of the suspension of disbelief. I’ve discovered I have more confidence writing a screenplay than I do any form of prose.

Screenwriting also provides an interesting contrast to prose. With prose, you get inside a character’s head. You relate what you see and how they feel. You can have an internal monologue driving the narrative. Screenwriting is different. An internal monologue is not going to work – you can translate it as voiceover, but you’re always having to think about what the audience is seeing. It has to be engaging. A character sitting on a couch coming to some slow realisation is not engaging. That has to be represented other ways that is going to hook the audience.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve refocused some of my energy on screenplays and subbed to a variety of international comps (because there’s so many of them), and met with some minor success in placing in a few of them. Some of those places have only been getting through to the next round, where perhaps another two hundred other writers have also gotten through. But I look at that in the context that possibly six or seven hundred people have been culled, so just to survive that is gratifying. As a writer, you hang onto little victories.

One screenplay, a 30-minute satire/pilot entitled ‘Producers’ – about a former shady tax lawyer, now heading a four-person production team trying to raise money for a feature – was a semi-finalist in the Showtime’s Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay (30 Min) Competition, which was flattering. ‘Producers’ was written originally over ten years ago, but has undergone repeated heavy revision and restructuring. To get any recognition is encouragement that I might be doing something – no matter how small – right. Or maybe I’m doing something right in a small way.

It’s been a lot of writing of various forms to juggle throughout the last year, while also working on a new book. Just when I get one of those peripheral commitments out of the way, something else pops up – another competition I want to enter, or a short story submission opportunity where I want to revise. My mind feels spread in different directions, which is not my preferred way of operating – but, at the moment, it feels like I can stay on top of it because at least when I am working on a couple of things, they’re different forms.

Well, that’s what I keep telling myself.

And this is what you do as a writer.

You write.

Submit.

And do it over and over.

 
Last Week’s Lie: My editor, Lucy Bell, and I did not go on a tyre-mauling rampage.

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If you’re connected to me in some way through social media, you may already know this: Just Another Week in Suburbia has been optioned by Truce Films, who are interested in trying to turn my novel into a television series.

Some people might think an option is a guarantee that a property will be realised on the screen. It’s not. An option allows the company a period of time to try to get a project up off the ground. This isn’t easy. In the US, they might throw money at something and give a greenlight to make a pilot, but Hollywood is Hollywood for a reason.

In Australia, getting anything up off the ground isn’t easy because the money just isn’t there the way it is in the US. Ask any writer, director, producer about the battles they face trying to get their projects off the ground. Last year, I attended a screenwriting workshop where an established producer told us that, on average, it takes eight years to see a project go from inception to appearing on the screen.

That’s all the negative stuff out of the way.

I had coffee with Jim Wright from Truce on Monday morning, where he apprised me of what they were doing, and what they’d prepared. That was exciting – and flattering (whatever happens). As was the news that Chris Hemsworth could star. And I could definitely see JAWiS working on the screen in a similar way to Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap did (which was then picked up in the US and remade – Melissa George actually played the same role in both versions).

Here’s hoping.

When I was younger, I tried to get into screenwriting. I was intensely passionate about it, and would’ve done anything to succeed. Most young writers (and artists) burn that way, whatever their field. It’s about succeeding at all costs, and every setback – every rejection – becomes a personal attack. Because writing is personal. You produce something only you can produce as a writer. It’s your story. They’re your characters. It’s you. So, naturally, rejection feels like a slight on not only your abilities to tell the story you want, and not only on you as a writer, but on you as a person.

I wasn’t very well equipped to deal with what you needed to do once a screenplay was finished. To tell the truth, the same applied to my prose. Lots of times (most of the time), stuff just sat there. I didn’t pursue submission the way a writer should, which is to submit, submit, submit. Get rejected, then it’s submit all over. That’s only a side to my writing that I’ve developed over the last ten years (since I studied as a mature-age student for a tertiary qualification). And it easier now, because the bulk of submitting is done either through email or an online submission interface, such as Submittable.

But as I’ve developed that side, that fanaticism for success has declined. That’s not to say I don’t want to be successful. Every writer would want their own qualification of success. And that’s not to say I wouldn’t do everything required to make something the best it can be or to give it every chance of success. That’s become ingrained in me. But (for the want of a better word) it doesn’t sting as much if these things don’t happen. I’m older, I’ve gone through things, I live in chronic pain thanks to being hit by a car back in 2011, I’ve had people close to me either pass way or lose people close to them. It puts material success into perspective. There are things more important. Unfortunately, most people don’t realise that until those things are lost.

I’m thrilled, excited, ecstatic – all the adjectives – that JAWiS has been picked up, and I hope it does become what Truce envision, but I’m still keeping everything in perspective.

 
Last Week’s Lie: Last week I wrote, I try to write every night. Some nights, it comes flowing, pure and right and beautiful. I do write every night, but it never comes flowing, pure, and right and beautiful. I tend to believe if something comes flowing that well, it’s probably pure shit.