Advice to My Younger-Writer Self
The author behind Sex and the City and the upcoming Carrie Diaries shares the top three commandments for novelists facing adaptation.
No. 1: No matter how talented an author you are, you are not a screenwriter. Novelists and screenwriters are like America and Great Britain: Yes, we share a common language, but the two cultures couldn't be more different. Do not be fooled into thinking that just because you can write dialogue in a book, you can write dialogue in a screenplay. Have you ever read an actual screenplay? At least one-quarter of the "dialogue" consists of lines such as "No," "Yes" and "Hey, Brody." Looks easy, but it's not. This is because while you, the novelist, write dialogue for an imaginary character, the screenwriter writes dialogue for a living and breathing actor. It's a lot trickier than it looks.
No. 2: The actors are not going to be your new best friends. In fact, half of them may not even know that this wonderful movie or television pilot they're starring in is even based on a book -- your book. "There was a book?" they'll ask, in confused surprise. This will be shocking to you at first, but eventually you'll get used to it, and then you'll begin to understand it. While it's possible that all those actors and crewmembers and the dozens of people changing batteries (an event that mysteriously occurs every five minutes like clockwork) would not have this job if it weren't for you and your book, it's equally possible that if it weren't for you and your book, they could be working on a better project.
No. 3: Being on set is not more glamorous than sitting at home in your pajamas for six hours staring at a blank computer screen. Yes, there are free M&Ms at craft services, but the novelty wears off after you've spent 18 straight hours sitting under a tarp in rainy 33-degree weather. A couple of days of this will give you a profound appreciation for Hollywood and just how damn hard it is to produce even five minutes of film.