1. Novelists have to do all the work themselves. When you write a book, you have to do all the work. You don’t have a director to lay out your scenes, or actors to fill in your characters. You can’t just say “Scene 1 – exterior – day,” and have someone else dress the set. (Of course, we don’t have to pay those people either, or put up with their whiny “But my character wouldn’t do that” tantrums, but such considerations do not inform my thesis.)
2. Novelists can’t just blow something up. In a movie, when the plot lags, you blow something up. Novelists can’t do that. We don’t have the permits.
3. Screenwriters can always blame someone else. Once you draft a screenplay, you give it to the studio, who usually gives it back–to another screenwriter. You often end up sharing credits with 30 other people you’ve never met. Then there are the directors, studio suits, and naturally, those whiny actors who wouldn’t know what to say if you didn’t write it down for them. (They probably have assistants to read it to them, for that matter.) So how could anyone blame you if the final product tanks? Your vision was pure. A novelist, though, he’s got an editor, maybe some marketing guys, and way back in the line, his critique group. Who’s he going to blame if the book doesn’t sell? “The cover was awful.” Yeah, that always works. Who judges a book by its cover? And if the book is a hit, who gets the credit? (Well, yeah, okay…but how often does that happen?)
4. Screenwriters get respect. In LA, you go into a coffeehouse, or a Starbucks (Starbucks isn’t a coffee house, it’s a coffee bar, don’t get me started), and half the patrons are on a laptop. Of those, half are students, and the other half are writers. Ask one of these laptop users: “What are you working on?” First, you’ll have to ask three times, because they’re all wearing headphones. But when you get through to them, the answer is either, “I’m writing a screenplay,” or “I’m writing a book.” The response to the former is, “Cool. What’s it about?” The response to the latter is, “People still read books?”
5. Screenwriters don’t have to find space to write. See no. 4. After enough people interrupt him, the novelist gets discouraged and goes home to drink his coffee, because they won’t let you put booze in it at the Starbucks.
All right. Enough of this. I’m halfway through my venti latte and I haven’t done any work yet.
Scene 1 – exterior – day …