I’m in the process of re-writing a screenplay I wrote years ago into an e-book novel. It’s called Voices on the Wind, and the story takes place on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. As you probably already know, I’m a lifelong activist, and one of the areas I’ve always stood up for is the plethora of issues that affect American Indian tribes. So after a good long time away from this story, I’m re-visiting it … and looking ahead.
I’ve revised the format a few times over the years — it began as a novel, but after four chapters, I stopped because the cost of printing books was just too high (at the time); so I switched gears and wrote it as a film screenplay, which turned out to be a colossus 184 pages. I thought a film would be great because that would have the biggest potential audience to receive the message … or so I thought at the time. I even went to the trouble of registering my script with the Writers Guild of America (WGAw) and copyrighting it. However, the logistics of actually making my script into a film were daunting and expensive — even by the numbers of SAG’s low-budget contracts.
I tried writing VOTW as a novel again, but I simply loathed the process. My background is in the literary classics. I haven’t read much in the contemporary book market. My mother was a literature professor, and my father was a scientist for the government. My world was nerd-central. I read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Hamlet by the time I was in 6th grade. While I loved the plays — probably due to my burgeoning theatre obsession, I loathed the lengthy tomes with endless prose and little dialogue. The idea of writing descriptive prose was not something I wanted to do. In fact, I still have heebie-jeebies from reading Silas Marner in high school. I mean, did George Eliot really have to spend 2 to 3 pages describing a frickin’ tree? I say, “No.”
A couple years ago, I had gone back to the revised-revised-finalized-final version of my Voices on the Wind screenplay to adapt it for the stage because I could finally admit that what I really loved was writing dialogue not descriptive paragraphs that go on for pages (this blog notwithstanding). But I realized that in adapting my story for a screenplay, I had taken out a lot of the scrumptuous dialogue that actors love to deliver for the sake of brevity in the film medium whose motto is “Show. Don’t tell.” Well, screw that. Actors like to talk. And so do my characters.
Interestingly, in the past 10 years, writing in the mass paperback industry has changed considerably. People like quick reads, and dialogue helps do that. Descriptive writing is still necessary, of course, but not at the lengths that used to be the standard. Also, with the advent of mobile, digital readers, more people than ever can afford to read (e)books because the costs are usually much lower than the physical book. This means I can get my story into people’s consciousness everywhere, more quickly and less expensively. Plus, the publishing industry used to be almost impenetrable for new authors; but the digital age has leveled the playing field for writers and placed the advantage squarely in the realm of self-publishing, while the cost of film-making has skyrocketed.
Now, here I am, going back to the tattered, worn, falling apart original 184-page screenplay of Voices on the Wind — barely held together with its tarnished brass brads — to reformat it as an e-book novel for your reading pleasure. It has been emotional for me to revisit the story as I wrote it originally, to once again dwell in the hearts and minds of my characters whom I love so much. Some things have changed on Pine Ridge since I was there in 2001, and some things haven’t. As a writer, it will be such a relief to FINALLY get this story out into the world.
I admit, there is nothing like actually holding a book in your hands as you curl up in a comfy spot with a cool drink and a tray of assorted chocolates nearby. Nothing will ever really take the place of the physical, printed book. But for me, the world of the eBook is a great opportunity. Therefore, the journey continues….
Even better, all these years (and this blog) later, I’m not afraid to write the sex scenes. :-)