Monday, March 5, 2012

Hollywood Versus Reality

Everyone's writing experience varies to some degree, but I noticed that Hollywood's version of how writers write and how they get published varies greatly from the reality for most of us. I don't understand this since a writer had to create those scenes for them to exist, but they still go along with Hollywood's strange, romanticized version of the events anyway. Below are some of the differences.

Hollywood: The hard part about writing is coming up with an idea.

I've seen this storyline a ton of times. A writer has written a successful book, but can't come up with an idea for the next one. The writer sometimes tries to do some eccentric things like going sky diving or bungee jumping, figuring if they live life a little more, they'll come up with the right story through their experiences. In the end, it all boils down to the fact that they were blocked due to lack of love, lack of confidence, or lack of something else. They work past that problem and magically, the next day, the entire story is written.

For example, in a movie I saw recently, Revenge of the Bridesmaids, one of the main characters (played by Raven Symone) is a writer visiting her hometown. People keep asking her what her next novel will be since her first one was so successful and she keeps changing the subject. By the end of the movie, after all their adventures, she winds up writing a "fictionalized" version of their experience. She learns to accept herself and that she is an interesting person who can add a lot of her personality to her own books. She's seen signing books and experiencing overall success.

Another example, is the movie Shakespeare in Love. Whenever Shakespeare is having trouble in his relationships, he has severe writers block, but with the right women, ideas flow through his mind and easily onto the page in a day. The only real struggle he has is finding someone worthy to take into his bed.

Reality: The hard part about writing is actually doing it.

I'm not saying writer's block doesn't exist or that coming up with ideas doesn't take a lot of creativity, but it is by far not the hard part about writing. In fact, as I speak, I currently have ideas and outlines for over twenty novels that I may or may not write about in the future saved onto my computer.

Not only that, but when I actually talk to other people about writing, almost everyone I know has an idea for a great novel they'd love to write, whether or not they actually take the time or effort to put it down.

There is no lack when it comes to ideas. The hard part is sitting down and actually putting it into words.

It's time consuming to write and re-write something. It takes a lot of patience, self-motivation, and determination. It takes organizational skills and sometimes takes a toll on your self-esteem.

Movies tend to gloss over this part because it's boring to watch someone sit down every day for months to years at a time and compose an entire novel. They make the hard part coming up with the story and draw that part out when that's actually one of the easiest and shortest parts of the writing process.

Hollywood: You sell your idea for the next great novel to a publisher and every day they hound you because you've missed your deadline.

In the movie, "The Help", debut author Kathryn Stockett sells the novel before even writing a page. She calls publishers directly and is only almost rejected because she doesn't have enough maids giving their stories of what it's like to be a black maid in the south. She's given several deadlines to when the story needs to be finished and works very hard to get it completed in that time. It becomes a best seller. 

Reality: You write out your entire story and then possibly get rejected anyway. No one cares at all about what you're doing before you're done.

Did you know that "The Help" wasn't written in that manner at all? That whole process of how she got published according to the movie was completely fictionalized.

In reality, Kathryn Stockett took the risk to interview all those maids and wrote that entire novel with no guarantee that she would ever be published at all. In fact, she was rejected sixty times after she was finished writing by agents, not publishers, before one finally accepted her, sold her book to a publisher, and it became a best seller. No one was pressuring her to interview more maids.

One of the worst parts about writing is that you can spend years putting your whole heart into a story day after day and never get published. No one will touch your novel or have any desire to buy it until it's complete and written as perfectly as possible and even then, if they don't think it will sell or think it's uninteresting, you might never get published at all.

I also have been rejected over sixty times and my first novel may never be published, even though I worked on it every day for two years straight. If you love to write, though, you do it anyway, even knowing all these risks.

Hollywood: Writers receive a lot of praise for their work.

This may not be hollywood's fault. It comes from a romanticized view we have of authors themselves. We think of bestsellers and all the money their books make. We think of how much we admire them and assume that as an author we would receive the same amount of praise if we could just write out that amazing idea we have

Reality: As a writer you have to get used to constant criticism, critique, and rejection.

This is true even when you are a best seller. You just don't see all of it.

I know a lot of people who read best selling books and say,"Even I could write something better than that!" It's not actually as easy to write as it seems. Even the best authors, like Steven King, for example, have to go through editors and beta readers and be told all the mistakes they made when it comes to grammar, spelling, punctuation, plot, and characterization.

Sometimes people call writers lazy. They see a mistake in someone's writing and assume the person didn't proofread, didn't try, or are just stupid. In reality, it's actually very difficult to distance yourself completely from your work and see all the mistakes. No matter how many times I edit novels, my mind will auto-correct spelling errors as I read over it or tune out plot holes that I should be noticing and I'll only see it when someone else points the truth out to me.

The easy part though, is actually the critiquing, because those people have your best interests at heart. They're trying to help you make a better product, but it can still be discouraging to work years on perfecting a novel and get the whole thing back from an editor with every page marked up in some way. It happens anyway.

The truly hard part is dealing with the criticism once you are finished. Either a novel will go ignored by the world or the author is going to receive a lot of complaint about all the things that readers didn't like about the novel. Authors will be told time and time again that they should have never written anything, that they have no talent, no skills.

Even worse than that is being rejected by agents and publishers. You work so hard to write a novel, go through beta readers and editors and correct everything you see wrong with it, but you still might never get published or at the very least will probably receives tens or hundreds of rejections before someone finally does take a chance on you. You get told time and time again by agents that they are sorry, but they just don't feel passionate enough about your novel to sell it. It can be frustrating because they usually won't tell you why and even if they do, it can be painful to hear why professionals who hold your dreams and future in your hands don't think your story is good enough.

To be a writer you have to have thick skin. Being rejected or told you did something wrong has to phase you as little as possible. (It's unrealistic to think you'll never get discouraged.) Or you'll give up.

Hollywood: Writers only write.

Most fictionalized writers have that as their one and only job. They are sometimes messes and anti-social creatures who spend all their life obsessing over what to write next.

Reality: Most writers have day jobs and families that take up a lot of their time.

Most writer's actually have to squeeze and force writing time into their lives. Writing doesn't usually make very much money, so most writers either have a spouse that supports them or a day job. The only reason I quit my day job to become a writer was because my day job was at McDonald's. I didn't really lose much by leaving it.

But even best selling authors, if you read their autobiographies work on the side as lawyers or therapists or any number of jobs. One that I knew in person also worked as an editor and barely made any money even with her two jobs combined together.

People assume that being published means making millions and becoming a best seller. It does happen to some writers, but not the vast majority of us, even ones who sell a pretty decent number of books.

Hollywood: Everything a famous author writes is golden.

In Shakespeare in Love, Shakespeare spouts famous lines to his plays as he writes them down easily. The words come out like something magical. His muse whispers deep inside of him, without any need to edit. All he needs is the caress of a love to make his words perfect.

Reality: You'll never read our first drafts.

Television and Movies call it writers block, but I call throwing out entire sections of my novel and re-writing them a normal day of editing. It actually means I'm getting a lot done!

It's hard enough to write a novel once, but most authors have to write each scene out several times before it's good enough to be edited yet again by several professionals. Not because we missed grammar and spelling errors either, but because the first drafts of our novels absolutely suck in every way most of the time. Mine often read like a second grader wrote them. I work my way up to something that sounds like it could have come from an adult.

If we waited for beautiful prose to flow from our fingers, none of us would ever be able to write anything. We just keep writing, sometimes knowing that the words coming from us are terrible, but also realizing that they aren't set in stone and that we can make them better later.

One of my favorite quotes was said by Enrique Jardiel Poncela:

"When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing."

It doesn't matter how good an author is at writing, they still have to practice writing the scene over and over again for anything good to come out of it.


In conclusion, writing is about a lot more work and rejection that Hollywood portrays. The reality sounds not as fun, but I still find the non-romanticized version very enjoyable and rewarding (emotionally, not so far financially.)

1 comment:

Keisha Azzalea said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. no problem no life, no matter did not learn, so enjoy it :)

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