Dreams of Adaptation

After a few weeks off sick, I’m now getting stuck back in to writing my novel The Silvergreen Sea, trying to unpick a plot knot I’ve been tangled in for a while. It’s going… ok, I guess? Having lost all my previous momentum, it’s now taking a while for me to build up my steam again, and of course the downside of being self-employed is I have to provide all my own motivation.

A good source of motivation/pointless indulgence is always daydreams about eventual success: buying a brand new Alfa Romeo, reading letters from adoring fans, that kind of thing. One dream popular with many writers is of course the idea of your book being turned into a film or TV show. This particular fantasy, shiny with Hollywood glamour, is especially brilliant because it’s got so many different facets. You can imagine which actors you’d cast, how your favourite scenes will play out on the big screen, what outfit you’d wear to the Oscars.

What I’m going to say next definitely comes under the heading of problems-I-would-love-to-have, or even problems-I-daydream-about-having (a special kind of fantasy). The impression I get from reading about some writers’ experience of adaptation is that the book-into-movie dream might become an example of Be Careful What You Wish For. While a few hyper-successful writers are exceptions – witness EL James’ notorious meddling with the production of the Fifty Shades of Grey film – most writers have to accept that when they sell their soul – er sorry I meant film rights – they surrender creative control, and the resulting adaptation might end up more travesty than triumph.

A recent example of this would be World War Z. The original book by Max Brooks is part horror, part scabrous political satire, told as a series of loosely-connected short stories set in the aftermath of a worldwide zombie apocalypse. The unusual narrative structure meant it was always going to be difficult to turn into a movie, but at least the film-makers had plenty of juicy material to work with. I mean, the book has lots of different stories, any one of which, with a bit of fleshing out, would have made a pretty good film in its own right. But after years of wrangling with the script, what eventually arrived in the cinemas bore almost no resemblance to any part of Brooks’ book and was, let’s be honest, Not Very Good. I’d give it at best 7/10, and I love both zombie films and Brad Pitt’s pretty pretty face. For anyone less keen on the undead and/or the delectable Mr Pitt, it’s more of a 4/10 movie.
And that’s just the way it goes. For every hugely successful and widely praised TV adaptation like Game of Thrones, there’s at least one Dresden Files – a TV show which mucked around with Jim Butcher’s books, got cancelled after only one season, and sank without trace. Not to mention the countless adaptations which never even make it that far. As a writer, you’ve just got to take the money and run, and hope the film-makers’ decision to re-imagine your elderly, disease-ridden protagonist who lives on a council estate in Wolverhampton as a 19-year-old supermodel who lives in Malibu doesn’t turn out too disastrously.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep writing, and keep dreaming that one day I’ll get to complain at length to anyone who’ll listen about how that multi-million dollar movie series completely trashed the purity of my vision no matter how many Oscars it might win and yes that is a new Alfa Romeo on my driveway but anyway the point is they should never have cast Leonardo diCaprio…

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Another Anniversary

Firstly, apologies for missing my usual blog update schedule – the reason why will shortly become apparent. Following the anniversary of my becoming a full-time writer at the end of July, today marks another anniversary for me: one year since I began writing my new novel, The Silvergreen Sea.
Taking a helicopter view, it’s been a productive year of writing: I have a 105,000 word manuscript, most of it in decent shape, and it should be fully finished this side of Christmas.
Taking a more in-the-weeds view, I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t managed to finish the book inside a year, and I’m more disappointed that my progress is currently stalled thanks to ill health.
Yep, I’m sick again. Not back pain this time (well, not more than usual) but a combination of viral infections, bouts of ME in between and, on top of all that, eye strain caused by too much staring at screens. Nothing too horrendous but it’s been persistent and has caused me to miss a number of engagements, including a 30th birthday party and a trip to Madrid to visit an old friend. And I’ve been unable to work on my novel, or this blog for that matter, which has caused a lot of frustration.
Oh well. Like anyone else, I can only play the cards I’ve been dealt. I’ve been trying to look after myself, listening to audiobooks to rest my eyes, and trusting to slow but sure recovery. It’s times like these that it’s important to remind myself of the good things about my situation. Like, I don’t have to call in sick to anyone, I can manage my own schedule of recovery, and I don’t have to juggle writing with other eye-straining commitments like a desk job. I’m very lucky, and while my current situation is frustrating, I need to remember it could be an awful lot worse.