The differences between writing Homing-the-novel and Homing-the-screenplay are huge and many. Homing the novel was such a solitary endeavour, a feverish fugue of writing, thinking, some rewriting, more thinking, not quite enough rewriting and not quite enough thinking and then it was out and on the shelf and in my hand.
Homing the screenplay holy smokes. At this point, it’s still Homing-the-synopsis, and it’s already in its sixth, maybe seventh draft. It’s a painstaking process of honing and shaping and honing and shaping and paring and shaping and honing. With lots and lots of input from the team of producers and story editor/mentor. When you’re writing a novel there’s no one who says, “maybe that’s not how Leah gets the pigeons, maybe Charlotte doesn’t go down to the library.” Because, what the hell are you talking about, of COURSE that’s how she gets the pigeons. That’s what happens! With the screenplay, there’s a lot of what if she, and maybe she ought to, and perhaps he feels… and that’s pretty strange to me, to my process, to the kind of writer I am. They ask a lot of questions, and sometimes those questions make me defensive, and that’s usually when I notice that I feel edgy about not having the answers, which means there’s some work to do there.
So it’s quite a process. I think I’m getting better at it, but I can’t really be sure. Maybe I’m just making a bunch of new drafts, and putting some new error or hole in each one. Hard to say. It feels like a lot of concentric circles and not a lot of straight lines, and I am so all about going forward as a writer. So it’s a good learning opportunity, if that’s not too weeny a thing to say about it.
It is definitely affecting the way I talk about the book when I am called upon to read from it (which I have been rather a lot over the last couple of weeks. Weird little flurry of activity for wee Homing-the-novel). The process of writing the treatment and synopsis for the film have definitely clarified my intention around the characters and story line (such as it is) in the novel. Very interesting cross pollination. I don’t know whether it holds up for a new reader of the novel, who doesn’t have access to the emails that fly between me and the producers, a reader who hasn’t read all frillion drafts of the treatment and synopsis. But it is yet another life the novel has, and I am so interested in that. There’s the life it had while it was being written and published, before it belonged to anyone but me. Then it came out, and belonged to everyone but me, and so the story changed again, every time someone read it, and told me what they thought. And now, as the story gets processed to become a film, it changes again, becomes no longer mine, nor yours, but ours, this common material with so many fingerprints all over it.
I should hate the process, but I don’t. I really don’t. In fact, I kind of like it. Potentially famous last words, but for now, I like it.