Having spent most of today writing a ghost story for this http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/8093081/Telegraph-ghost-story-writing-competition.html and editing my second book (to the point where I couldn’t tell was there a fly in the room or were the commas dancing round the page), it made me realise why there are probably so few films about writers and writing. There’s a few films about writers going mad/shagging/dying/all of the above, but that’s about it.
You can see why. I mean, how do you come up with visual metaphors for the process? In Shakespeare in Love you see him scribbling on bits of paper (parchment?), tossing them aside, then reading bits out to her while bonking ecstatically (as Jilly Cooper would no doubt say) with Gwyneth Paltrow. In Proof (OK not about a writer but same idea) Gwyneth herself scribbling on white boards, muttering, ditto bonking with Jake Gyllenhaal. In Edge of Love, muttering, drinking, trying to bonk Keira Knightley. I haven’t seen Miss Potter but doubtless it has muttering, drawing, and talking to rabbits (hopefully that is all). Becoming Jane? Lusting after James McAvoy (and who can blame her), not much actual pen-work. The Hours? Smoking in chair with big nose, wandering round muttering (Muttering clearing essential part of writing process). And I have to say I like the bit in I Capture the Castle where they lock up Bill Nighy in the dungeon until he gets over his writer’s block. But that’s it. The lack of writing is the story. The actual doing of it, not so much.
So, no one wants to make a film about someone sitting at a desk all day, covered in inkstains, muttering and spilling tea. But what’s this? Apparently the ‘People’s Book Prize’ (no, I don’t know either) are planning to launch an ‘X factor style’ completion.
There are many reasons why this would clearly never work. Where would be the excitement for the viewers? Here’s Mary hard at work on this week’s task…..10 hours later, Mary has moved to pick up a biscuit…Now Mary’s crying over the placement of a comma. ‘It’s been a rollercoaster ride….it’s literally the most important comma of my life blah blah….’Here’s Mary spending an hour wondering if it’s focused or focussed. How can that compare to Ann Widdecombe on a trapeze?
As organisers say, ‘”We have to glamorise writing, authors and books and stories themselves”. Does this mean give them an X-factor style makeover with big hair, false lashes like fifteen spiders welded to their eyes, ‘on trend’ dresses made of tinfoil, etc? I’d like to see how they plan to ‘glamorise’ (is that even how you’d spell it?) someone sitting at a computer for hours, squinting, making minute movements of the fingers, and occasionally bursting into tears or shouting ‘it should have been me, damnit’, while obsessively scanning The Bookseller site to see who’s had a book published.
On the other hand it’s National Novel Writing Month (I guest international now) in November, so they could possibly make a TV show fun by locking all the writers up together and forcing them to produce 100,000 words in a month. You’d see tears and bitch-fights then, alright. It’s a shame the organisers of this new show didn’t think to put in an unpublished writers’ award. Isn’t that the appeal of X factor etc, to rummage around in the great unwashed handbag of the populace, finding desperados, loonies, and wannabees? An already published writer is dull. We want someone with the manic gleam in their eye that says they’re just waiting for you to go to Tesco’s so they can break into your house and kidnap your pet tortoise until you read their book, goddamnit!!! That would make for compelling viewing indeed.