This week’s guest poster is the lovely Laura Smith who discusses writing, odds and Academy Awards! 🙂 Apologies to Laura, this should have been up last Tuesday. Oh well, better late than never.
Playing to Win: Writing, Odds, and the Academy Awards by Laura Smith
As a movie lover, the Academy Awards are my Super Bowl. As a writer, the awards given out for best screenplays are always especially exciting.
My ultimate dream is to have all of my books made into movies from scripts that I have written so that I can be given the chance to stand on that stage one day.
This isn’t so much because I want a gold statue and to have my picture taken with celebrities. Instead, it’s because I want to know that my stories matter and that my work is accepted in both literary and cinematic circles, two imaginary places where I spend most of my waking hours.
I celebrate every modest sale of my books, and I know that most likely, my success as a writer will be limited to modest at best, but this doesn’t discourage me from dreaming big.
Needless to say, I have a far-fetched dream. I hate to think about all of the lotteries I would have to win to get there, but I have. These mountains to climb would include:
- One of my books suddenly becoming a best seller.
- Hollywood calling me up and offering me a movie deal.
- Getting the film made and having enough of my script survive the process to earn me top credit as the movie’s writer.
- Critical acclaim upon its release.
- An Oscar nomination.
- Beating out four other writers for the trophy and a place in movie history.
Oh, and did I mention that I write middle-grade fiction? I’ve checked. Children’s films are rarely ever nominated for best screenplay, let alone win.
This is my biggest problem with the Academy in my opinion. I mean, if the scripts for Matilda and Jumanji aren’t deserving of a nod, what are?
Writing itself is a lottery that we are all struggling to win. You have to develop the right manuscript, find the right publisher, and reach the right audience.
All of these elements must intersect at the right time and in the right order, much like lottery numbers. Sometimes it takes a minute. Sometimes it takes a lifetime. The only elements that you can control are the words that are put on the page and the effort you put into getting those words read by as many people as possible.
Scriptwriters are no exception. Their careers were built on striking oil. Unlikely nominees pop up all the time. Sylvester Stallone sold his script for Rocky while in the midst of financial poverty.
That script was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 1976. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were only in their 20’s when they won the 1997 Best Original Screenplay Oscar for their film, Good Will Hunting.
Nia Vardalos performed at Second City before getting nominated for writing her movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding in 2002, a comedy of all things. Even the title stands out among the stuffy dramas that shared a nomination with her movie that year.
It’s nice that the Oscars give out two awards for writing: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. It helps to give writers equal playing ground in order to win. Very few of the Best Adapted Screenplay nominees, though, are ever the authors of the original source material.
This is very discouraging, but it can happen. Some of the most recent nominees include Emma Donoghue for Room (2015), Tom Perrotta for Little Children (2006), and Fannie Flagg for Fried Green Tomatoes (1991).
The only two writers who wrote their own screenplay adaptations of their books, and won, in the past 45 years were William Peter Blatty for The Excorcist (1973) and John Irving for The Cider House Rules (1999).
Irving even wrote a book about the making of the movie titled My Movie Business. He definitely had that F. Scott Fitzgerald enthusiasm about movies along with the ability to rework his literary story into a cinematic one. But maybe writers tend to have a more J.D. Salinger view of movies and want nothing to do with the process.
Maybe studios would rather work with a writer who doesn’t hold the source material so sacred. Maybe they just feel more comfortable working with their own established Hollywood writers. Whatever the case, the writer of both the book and screenplay are rarely the same person.
Then, there are the playwrights. This year, August Wilson was nominated posthumously for the screenplay that he wrote of his famous play, Fences.
William Gibson was nominated for The Miracle Worker in 1962, and John Patrick Shanley was nominated for Doubt in 2008. Dozens of plays have been adapted into movies, borrowing lines and altering the plot to fit the demands of the screen over the stage, and they are often a great success when given the chance.
So, my advice is to dream big. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for the best with your writing. Success does happen to those who ask for it. It’s not guaranteed or even likely, but that is the only way you will get anywhere.
We can talk about literary techniques, offer tips on submitting to publishers, and create Do’s and Don’ts lists until we’re blue in the face, but as you can see above, sometimes success comes in the form of dumb luck and timing and ultimately, the desire to not give up.
Set a goal that inspires you to write. Keep it in focus and don’t let bad days wear it down. Make a plan. Tack it to a bulletin board. Daydream about it every hour.
Then, one day, maybe you’ll even be tasked with trying to thank as many people as you can in 30 seconds as you graciously deliver your winning Oscar speech, whether literal or figurative. It will get you through the rough days and give you something to work towards, making the hours that you put into your work worth the effort.
Laura Smith is a children’s fiction writer from Pittsburgh, PA. By day she works for a Long Term Care Insurance broker.
By night, she blogs and writes middle-grade chapter books, three of which have been self-published. Her fourth book is set to be published later this year. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found watching movies, reading, and drawing.
Saving Hascal’s Horrors
Ten-year-old Mike Hascal loves horror movies. His family owns a horror-themed shop that his sister, Julie, inherited from their dad who died when Mike was only two.
Before his death, the shop held a contest to see who could find and photograph a real live ghost. Two teenage boys went into some nearby woods looking to win this contest.
One of the boys, Shawn Mackey, never made it out of the woods. Shawn’s father, a teacher at Mike’s school, then forced the Hascal family to close their shop to the public.
When Mike finds out about this, he and his friends, along with his new friend and horror movie lover, Freddy Nickerman, spend the summer planning a search for Shawn’s body in the now forbidden woods. Will Mike and his friends make it out and save the shop, or will the ghost of Shawn Mackey keep them from leaving too?
Middle Grade, Chapter Books, Ghost Stories, 255 pages
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Big thanks to Laura for agreeing to guest post on my blog. I hope you all enjoyed her article and do make sure you visit her social pages!
I will be back with a new article next Friday (possibly Saturday). My schedule is a little haywire at the moment due to some stress at work. But I’m hoping to get back on track soon. Thanks for your patience
As always, I appreciate all the likes, followers and comments. Keep ’em coming! I do try and to respond to all comments.