By January 28, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Paging Barton Fink

According to Marc Weingarten in the Los Angeles Times, struggling novelists now face another source of competition: striking screenwriters (“Hollywood writers turn to Plan B: the novel“). Given the film scribes are used to earning, though, book advances certainly won’t make them forget their day jobs:

Lydia Wills at Paradigm agreed that “back-burner projects” are now getting more attention, noting a surge in “book pitches and novel writing” among her agency’s Hollywood clientele.

But although the strike has given screenwriters who’ve long had novels percolating in their heads the impetus to finally get the darn things written, there’s also a cruel reality: Because book fees are small change compared with the big payoff of a Hollywood script, it’s a treacherous hedge, a gamble on something that might not even cover one month’s rent, let alone a house note.

From the sounds of it, though, the screenwriters writing novels see the chance to work in a long form as more than a paycheck–perhaps an opportunity to get reacquainted with their muses. But while some of them are certainly well connected enough to make it into print, agent Mary Evans, for one, isn’t always thrilled to hear from them:

“Oftentimes, you shudder when a screenwriter sends you a novel, because they tend to be strong with dialogue but crappy with context, and novels are all about creating the proper context for the story,” said Evans, whose clients include Smith and Michael Chabon. “Screenwriters are attracted to novel writing because they can let their freak flag fly and just write what they want, but the truly talented novelist-slash-screenwriter is very rare.”

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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