How’s the writing going? by Mike McCrary
“McCrary, how’s the writing going?”
That’s the question I get from time to time.
People mean well, but I hate the question.
I’d love to say, “It’s like sucking on a horrific, angst-ridden, self-mutilation cocktail with a sweaty, toothless whacko at the end of the bar winking her good eye at me.”
But I don’t.
I smile and give some crap answer that will hopefully end the conversation before someone gets hurt.
Years ago I had one of those Jerry Maguire style moments and quit my corporate job to become a writer. I moved to LA and quickly realized I had no idea how to become a writer. I did, however, become an unpaid Hollywood intern and did a little bit of everything. I picked dry cleaning, coffee, Prozac prescriptions, overnighted porn to producers’ brothers and cleaned up dog shit in a conference room during a writer’s meeting.
Yup. All of that happened.
Despite what you might think, it was great.
Everyone was a little crazy, but so was I. The people I met were cool, smart and very supportive. It was the best learning experience I could hope for. In addition to learning the business of writing, I was also given somewhere around five to ten scripts a week to read. It was an invaluable time in my life. During that time I was able to try things out with writing. I experimented with three-act structure and creating characters and outlining scenes. I read what others did, and through it all I found a voice.
It was truly how I learned to write. This did not happen overnight. It started during the summer of 2002. You do the math. It hurts my head. You always hear stories about people who seemingly just roll out of bed and write something that sells for millions. It happens and, yeah, it pisses me off too, but I try not to let it kill me.
Also, during my time on this planet I’ve developed a love for crime fiction. I’ve devoured it over the years. I’ve pitched books I’ve loved to producers, and tried to option some of those books for myself, only to watch them get snatched up by bigger name writers or producers, or simply have the Lords of Hollywood tell me, “Yeah, sorry, it’s just not for us.”
One day I was sitting down with my manager and he asked me, “Why don’t you write one?”
I looked at him blankly. “One what?”
“A book. A crime book.”
I told him he was nuts. I couldn’t write a book. That’s what, like, real writers do. Not that screenwriters aren’t real writers, but books have a shitload more words and they’re long and stuff. I went home, convinced the man had lost his mind, but his question stuck with me. Why didn’t I write one? Something that I really wanted to write, something I’d be proud of, get it out there to readers and, who knows, make a dollar or two in the process?
What a concept.
In screenwriting, like all writing, you work hard on something for months and months. You do draft after draft, agonizing over character names, slug lines and what version of the f-word to use and where. Are there enough trailer moments? Is this what producers want this week? Which actor will play this part, and will that actor appeal to the proper market quadrant? If you’re lucky like me, you have an agent and/or manager who will help you get your script out into the wilds of Hollywood. It gets sent around town and maybe, just maybe, heaven and Earth will collide and one of them will buy it. If they don’t, nothing happens.
I mean nothing.
There’s only dead air and a boot print on your nuts.
I’ve had the pleasure to get to know a few book authors who I like and admire. Good, good people, and they seem to really enjoy and care about what they do. Sure they have gripes and they bitch about things, but even their complaints seemed pretty nice to me.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have some short fiction be published at great places like Out of the Gutter and Shotgun Honey (coming January 30th), and soon I have something coming to the great new Western fiction site, The Big Adios (debuting in February). I’ve also been hard at work cranking out a new crime novel and a novella. They will both hopefully see the light of day later this year.
Make no mistake; I still love screenwriting and movies. I have a few things I’m working on in that arena, but I’m committed to making a showing in the world of crime fiction, and I’m having a blast doing it.
So, kind people, that’s how the writing is going.
Now, please, don’t ask again.