If I could go back in time and tell the first person who said to me "you're a really good writer" to shut up, I would. Writing, though cathartic and what I was meant to do, has brought me (almost) nothing but heartache and disappointment. But for some unknown reason, I write - I always have and always will. It's a curse. I have done a lot of different writing - screenwriting, business writing, technical writing, media writing... and I thought those types were going to be my life...
But last fall when I decided to adapt one of my screenplays into a novel, everything changed. I suddenly became excited again about books and storytelling, and now find myself immersed in the world of books again. This time last year, I had no idea I would now be sending out queries to agents for a book I had written. I had no idea what #DVPit was. And #PitchWars... what?
A little bit of history... about my book
The origin of my official first novel Lost Together goes back many years when I took a course in screenwriting. I fell in love with that form of writing and thought I had discovered the kind of writing I was supposed to do. The final assignment, of course, was to write a screenplay. Lost Together (then known as Freefalling) began as a short 10 minute horror script. By the end of the course, I had developed it into a feature-length dramatic screenplay. After the course ended, and encouraged by my teacher who became my mentor, I went through many drafts until he and I were satisfied.
I then began to "shop it around", not really knowing what I was doing - submitting it to contests and pitching it to producers. When it made it through to the quarterfinals of a contest called Slamdance, I thought, "wow, this is easy." Ha! I can easily say that trying to get a screenplay into the film industry is next to impossible. Progress stalled and I became very disillusioned. I stopped writing. A couple years later, I decided I needed more than just one script, so I regained my confidence and churned out script after script in a wide-variety of genres. 10 years since that screenwriting course, I have a portfolio of 10 screenplays - some of which have gotten into producers hands... but have sat there.
Last fall, I read an article about the surge in interest in YA novels. I had an epiphany: I have the perfect YA novel - my screenplay Lost Together, and I already have an outline (my screenplay). With my decision made, I used NaNoWriMo in November as my vehicle to push me to write my novel. Through several months, many breaks, sleepless nights, eye strain, back pain, re-writes, revisions, polishes and re-polishes, I finished Lost Together - the novel, last month.
About my book...
The tagline: A grief-stricken teen finds solace in chaos.
The logline (screenwriting speak): A straight-A high school teen and his unstable childhood bully form an unlikely alliance to escape their dysfunctional and abusive families, until a night of drug-induced rage changes their lives forever.
The back cover: Will Thomas has a perfect life – money, a nice car, a beautiful girlfriend, a loving family, and a sports scholarship to university. But it all falls apart when his father dies in a suspicious car accident. Shane, a troubled Indigenous teen, and Will's childhood bully, is released from prison to complete his high school diploma. Consumed by grief, Will spirals into Shane’s life of drugs and family violence. The two boys turn to each other to cope with their dysfunctional and abusive families – a decision that ends in tragedy.
A little bit of history... about me
I was born in a very small town in Nova Scotia. I learned to read and love books before I started school. Until the town got a library, I read everything in the house and at school - twice, I think. I discovered writing when I was a pre-teen. A few years later, consumed with the creative writing process, I wrote a novel... then a second. I knew they weren't very good - I was just happy to have written something. After completing university, I came home one summer and discovered the manuscripts in a drawer. I began to read them, then tucked both of them under my arm, went out to the backyard, tossed them both into a large metal barrel, and burned them. They were awful.
I followed my BA in English Literature with my adventure in screenwriting. Screenwriting temporarily derailed my novel writing career. For the next ten years, I compiled a portfolio of ten feature screenplays and teleplays. I also created and managed my own professional website and blog, mainly to satisfy my love of film, tennis, and politics. Lost Together has brought me full circle back to books. It began as a 10 year exile in screenwriting. That short screenplay has now turned into a novel. It was a roundabout way of getting back to books. Life is funny isn't it?
Follow me on Twitter @IAmTrevorScott
(FYI: I Tweet a lot about progressive politics and professional tennis too :)
One of my next projects is a short script entitled ‘The Flood’. It’s always amazing to see how people react in natural disasters. Sometimes it’s not the best reaction as their minds tell them things that put themselves and/or others in personal danger. At other times, logic is thrown out the window. That will be the basis for this script. I haven’t entirely worked out the plot, but it will be based on a once-in-a-lifetime flood in a major city. The script is inspired by two things: the short story ‘The Painted Door’ by Sinclair Ross (which I’m sure every Canadian school kid knows about); and the flood that hit Calgary in 2013.
I’m using the flood as the event that reveals the secret of a relationship (the element I’m using from ‘The Painted Door’. As I work out the details in my head, the more it sounds like a modern day, urban ‘The Painted Door’. In film making terms, this is a homage. As with anything I write, I still may do a 360 and write something completely different.
The origins of this story go back to 2009 when I wrote a short story (the first I had written in many years) for the CBC Literary Awards. The spine of the story I borrowed from one of the ideas that I had created for a screenplay a couple years earlier. In the end, I didn’t submit it because I wasn’t happy with it and missed the deadline.
In 2010, I tried to re-write it and again didn’t submit it because I didn’t think that it had a chance of winning because it wasn’t something that the “literary” judges would like. The “literary” side of the publishing business has always rubbed me the wrong way – it just seems so… snobby and elitist and I rail against that. I’m a ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ person and that’s how I write. I write for the everyday person and I can’t stand writers who ‘put on airs’ and write that way to satisfy their own ego. When it comes right down to it, the only things that matter when crafting a story are plot, character and clarity. When the clarity is muddled by the writer’s eagerness to show off to their fellow literary intelligentsia friends, sorry, but you’ve lost me and many others who don’t drink tea with their pinky fingers outstretched while quoting Chaucer and sitting under pear trees discussing Wittgenstein.
Now that that’s off my chest… earlier this year, I pulled that short story out and (in screenwriting mode) adapted it as a screenplay. It took two days. I couldn’t believe it…and because it only took two days, I knew I had something good to work with from the very beginning. Later, after I posted it on Inktip, I received two requests from production companies wanting to see the script, so I knew I was onto something. That is the reason why I’ve decided to come full circle and rewrite the original story – not from the short story, but from the screenplay. I adapted the screenplay from the story, now I’m adapting the story from the screenplay – weird.
The CBC Literary Awards are now called the CBC Short Story Prize – much more palatable to me than the stuffy title it once was. I (along with a few other people) like the results of my screenplay. Now, I can only hope that I finally write a short story that I can be proud of to enter – and win.
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