A co-worker casually asked me what my current writing project was. Foreseeing an extended, rambling discourse littered with bumbling, incoherent summaries of my many irons in the fire, I saved myself some awkwardness and my co-worker some boredom by tossing out “Well, I’m kinda between projects right now.”
Truth is, I’m never between projects, and I doubt many of my fellow writers, if they’re serious, could say they are either.
Before writing my novel PROGENY, I concentrated my writing efforts on screenwriting and the occasional short story. In the world of screenwriting, assuming you’re able to get past the initial obstacles that are in place to weed out those poor deluded souls who unfortunately lack the talent, discipline, or knowledge to complete a polished screenplay, the writer is not necessarily the Last Word on the story’s direction, themes, characters, setting, title, etc. Many screenwriters spend the bulk of their careers working from someone else’s idea or treatment.
Those who manage to get their spec (for ‘speculation’, meaning the script is totally original, written with the hopes that a producer will be interested in the script itself, as opposed to just wanting to hire the writer) past the other submitters and readers (there are people working for the production companies, often unpaid interns, whose main function is to read scripts and separate the wheat from the chaff) will then receive ‘notes,’ which basically address the elements of the script that aren’t agreeable to the potential producer and/or director.
Sometimes, the changes being requested have to do with budget, location, or casting possibilities. Other times, there is no discernible reason.
All this is to say that screenwriters will often find themselves working on several projects at once. Those ‘notes’ come in out of the blue, often after you’ve given up on that particular lead. Suddenly you’re burning the midnight oil to meet a new deadline, forcing aside whatever else you might have been working on.
I tend to fall into a certain groove with a project. Once I start a screenplay or story, I immerse much of myself into that world, viewing the world through its specific “rules,” if you will. The feel, the general atmosphere may almost always be more or less dark, but in varying shades, from one project to another. To suddenly leave behind one world and jump back into another is disconcerting at best.
But after a while, ya just gotta be a pro and go with it.
I’ve known authors who work on a sort of stream-of-consciousness basis, starting projects as the inspiration hits them. This results in the juggling of several stories at once. For me, the initial story idea goes into a notebook or email to myself, and gets revisited depending on how intensely it haunts me as the project at hand comes to a close. But I can see the advantage of taking a break from one project to have some fun with a less serious, less “urgent” work.
Nowadays, I lean toward treating screenwriting as a pastime almost, while painting more ambitious landscapes on the canvas of prose. More accurately, that is the position of my current cycle. Screenplay formatting actually makes for a great first draft for pure prose, which is why I’m converting the tales that comprise “Twisted Fates,” the omnibus script currently in development at SaintSinner Entertainment, into short stories. I enjoy reading a book and then comparing it to its film adaptation, and vice versa, so I figure there are others of like mind. Two of those stories are currently available; “Nightbound” in the vampire anthology WRAPPED IN RED, and “Fate by Firelight” in DARK DESTINIES. The third, GUARDIAN OF THE ORCHARD, is currently in the hands of my editor.
So, having just turned in the latest draft of Fates to the producers at SaintSinner, I’ve also submitted and am awaiting response from a publisher on my second novel “The Crimson Calling,” (which is also the first of a trilogy.) That means (hopefully) revision notes on that one in the near future. Then there’s a film project I can’t yet discuss, commissioned by foreign producers, also my locally produced web series “The Outside Man”, my submission for the coming WRAPPED IN WHITE ghost anthology, and any number of short story ideas hammering their way out of my skull.
So, with apologies for my li’l white lie, I laugh at the notion of being “between projects,” hoping quite frankly, that I never am.
A Review by Bryan W. Alaspa ~
There is something about short stories. They lend themselves particularly well to the horror genre, but there is something about them that makes them not quite as popular as novels. I think it has to do with the thing that makes them work so well for me – their shortness. That may seem obvious, but bear with me.
When you have a much longer work, well, you have time to identify with the characters. You slowly immerse yourself into their world. You get to know them. Some of the best novels make you feel like they are part of your life, as if they were real people. Then you go through the ups and downs with them and, at the end, there is usually some kind of resolution. Granted, not always, and some of them leave you hanging, but even those can make you feel like you have left these people that you came to love someplace, maybe having learned something.
The short story, meanwhile, does not have that luxury. You are often flung into the worlds of the characters. You have to catch up quick, and then shocked by the horrific things that happen to them, and just when you are starting to get the rhythm and vibe of the characters, the story ends! Often short stories, more than any other type of writing, leaves you hanging, without that blissful resolution. Their literary teases.
However, that does lend itself to horror. I think it lends itself to horror better than any other genre. And the horror genre has embraced it. Most of Poe and just about all of Lovecraft came in short story form. Some of the best stories you might know from Stephen King, originated in short story form (Children of the Corn, Trucks, The Lawnmower Man).
For some, it is also an opportunity to break themselves in to a writer that they might want to try out in nugget-sized bites first. And it is in that vein that I tell you about Patrick C. Greene’s horrifying and excellent collection of short stories called Dark Destinies.