Peggy Bechko on Defining What You Write

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by Peggy Bechko

Stephen King tells us “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

That view from a novelist.

What then are movies and made for TV?

Merriam Webster dictionary says they are, “a recording of moving images that tells a story and that people watch on a screen or television.”

But really, they’re much more.

A novel or a short story is a tale written by an author. There may be some editing, but in the end the story remains that of the author. Once written it’s a pretty static thing. Its words on paper or residing in an Ereader that can take us all on an adventure we pursue in our minds. Almost like getting high, each reader can form the images from the story in his or her own mind and create a unique adventure.

Film and TV on the other hand is a different animal altogether.

First we have the written script; that which the writer has created. Could be good. Could be great. Could be not so great. Whatever it is, it caught the eye of folks who can create movies or content for TV from scripts, so congratulations.

Now is where the great divergence occurs. The original writer may or may not be included in the process as it goes forward. Or he or she may be included but other writers brought on board. There are notes and meetings and changes. An entire evolutionary process which involves, usually, a number of people. Ultimately the story originally simply written on the page becomes a series of moving images that tells that story on large screen or small, but it’s not by magic.

It’s a whole different world for the writer than the quiet, sitting alone and cranking out a story onto the digital page.

So what’s a writer who desperately wants to write for film and TV to do? Cooperate. Even the writer of novels and short stories frequently must do rewrites according to notes an editor provides or risk not having that piece published.

A writer of scripts has to learn to accept notes. To revise. To cooperate…and yet to stand ground when something seems totally wrong. On a smaller scale the writer of novels does the same thing. Publisher is interested…editor provides notes…writer either rewrites or risks losing the publishing opportunity – and a payday.

Writer beware though. If you’ve sold your story and your rights you have nothing further to say. The forces that be can do what they like with your original story to the point…and beyond…where it is recognizable.

So, what’s the take-away from all this?

Quite simply, the writer must recognize that there is a decided difference between writing scripts and writing novels. And I’m not talking about just the format.

A writer can be very good at both, there’s a history of writers who’ve written both well. Or the writer might be particularly good at one but not the other. It’s a matter of getting a feel for what you’re good at and what you enjoy writing. Then just go for it; share your stories with the world.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.