Without a shadow of a doubt, the answer has to be categorically no!
My fellow writer and friend here in the UK, Andrew French decided that he wanted to turn one of his books into a screen play. So, with ‘how to’ suggestions from someone involved in the scriptwriting industry here, away he went.
Andrew said to me yesterday, “I don’t want anyone else adapting my work. It wouldn’t be the same.” From that point of view I can completely understand why he did it. After all would you allow a total stranger anywhere near your baby? No neither will the author of a given work, if they’ve got any sense… Far too many good stories have been ruined in the past by total Philistines ie editors. Or in this instance scriptwriters!!!
When you read a book, through the use of your imagination you become part of it to the point where if you close your eyes, your right there with the characters. Not so with a script. With the latter what your reading is nothing more or less than simplistic writing in the form of an instruction manual for totally unimaginative ninnies, devoid of everything that you experience when reading any work of fiction.
I can’t speak for any other writer out there, but when it comes to my books, they are the end product of seventy percent research plus thirty percent writing.
When I finally decide on a topic, I spend many months finding out everything I can about it. It doesn’t matter which of the genres I write in be it fantasy, science fiction or all kinds of adventure story. My latest will fit into the latter.
Without comprehensive research, the story just won’t gel. More often than not, as I spend ten hours a day, seven days a week for maybe four to six months reading up on the subject, I will come across a sentence in some dusty tome on the subject which gives me the inkling of an idea for the story. As for my sources, here at home I have an extensive research library of my own. Plus I also make use of the internet. Although, having said that, there is a lot of disinformation and plainly incorrect articles on the net. To give you an example, take most things which appear in Wikipedia with a large pinch of salt. Never rely on just one source! Use Wikipedia by all means. But check what is there with reputable sources like the British Museum and other institutions. Many of the better universities across the planet can also prove invaluable when it comes to research, especially these days via the internet.
Another excellent source for me are serious documentaries on television, particularly when it comes to history, geography and the universe in general.
So, to sum up – research is the key unless you are merely engaged in writing what the Victorian’s termed ‘A Penny Dreadful’, or potboiler if you prefer. But remember this, even they need a degree of research…
As an author, it wasn’t until I took up writing seriously back in 1995 that I finally appreciated just how many of today’s books are the end product of lazy writing practises. A classic example is the endless use of things like, ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ when your characters are speaking. This is perfectly acceptable when writing the initial draft of your book. But never ever let them endlessly appear in the final draft. Once you have been picked up on it and other examples of literary lazyness by your harshest critics (your readers), until you mend your ways and the use of tools like your Dictionary and Thesaurus becomes second nature, don’t be surprised at the loss of your potential readership. The harsh reality of the writing world is that readers either make or break you! If one person likes your work, they will soon tell their friends, particularly these days with Social Media Sites like FaceBook and Twitter. By the same token. the opposite will apply if the end product of your work is unmitigated rubbish, chock full of errors!
Up until I began writing, the concept of ‘Lazy Writing’ hadn’t even entered my mind. Back then, like millions of other readers, the only thing that mattered to me was whether or not the story grabbed my attention. Some authors, be they ‘Indie’ or ‘Establishment’ are equally guilty when it comes to literary laziness, the same can be said for some editors. In all three cases, there is no acceptable excuse. Another glaring example of the sheer lazyness prevelant in today’s literature is the endless repetetion of certain words, along with foul language. While the above may be socially acceptable when talking with family and friends, if you are a writer, it certainly isn’t!
Regarding foul language and poor writing practices, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is the classic example. While it may appeal to a certain base section of the world’s population who know no better, to anyone who holds the written word dear as I do, it is anathema. Despite the fact that the book has become a best seller and is soon to become a movie, it will never be held up as a shining example of ‘best writing practice’ by any literary critic or scholar worth their salt.
Lastly, as a writer, you must be your own harshest critic as well as being an extremely tough editor. If you are wondering why your books simply don’t appeal, take a long hard look at your final draft. I’m betting that it is full of glaring literary error’s.
PS – If you are wondering how many times I edited/rewrote this post, it was well over three dozen before I finally hit the Publish button…