Wednesday, September 23, 2015

4 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong About Writers

If you've ever watched a movie or TV show about a writer, you've likely noticed Hollywood has a lot to say about writers. Unfortunately, all too often they get it wrong. Which is frustrating for writers, to say the least.

Odd...since movies and TV shows are written by writers. They seem to not quite have a firm grasp on how book publishing really works.

Here are a few myths I'd like to bust wide open.


#1. We publish the first book we ever write.

For this one, I'd like to point to Mike & Molly--a great show. At the beginning of the most recent season, Molly headed off to a writer's retreat and returned, eight weeks later, with a hefty advance from a major publisher.



Okay...let's say an editor at a publishing house agreed to read the work produced at an eight-week retreat. Even if that publisher liked a writer's work, the editor would demand a full manuscript before offering a contract. Half the check would arrive when she signed the contract and the other half would arrive when she delivered the full manuscript. But then Hollywood loves to hand characters big advance checks for books they haven't written yet, which leads me to my next Hollywood myth...

#2. We're handed six-figure advances before we start writing the book.

Stephen King is guilty of this one. We get it. It's so dramatic for a writer to be under the gun to get a book finished. One way to crank up the drama is to give that writer a deadline to get the book published.



In truth, new authors turn in a complete manuscript before we get a dime. Once we're established, we turn in three chapters and a full synopsis before the publisher even agrees to buy it. Often they don't, even after you've published your first book. If they buy it, you get a portion of the advance at contract signing and the rest once the complete manuscript is turned in. Of course, if you're Stephen King, I'm sure they throw money at you to go to a cabin somewhere and look all dark and brooding.

#3. We breeze in and out of our publishing houses.

Whether authors are discussing our next work or we're turning in our manuscript, Hollywood thinks we all do it in person.



Most major publishing houses are in New York City. Few novelists are within a few hours' driving distance of New York City. Need I say more?

#4. We all drink while we write.

Okay, I get it. A writer sitting down at her laptop with a glass of wine and dim lighting sets a tone. Drinking and writing seem to be inextricably linked in movies...and history.



Some writers seem to believe the "write drunk, edit sober" mantra works. Most of us, however, live on bottled water, chocolate, and a lot of this:



What movie stereotypes have you found to be untrue?

69 comments:

  1. Even once we're established, many of us still have to turn in a complete book before we get any money. (Maybe that's a difference between big and small publishers?)
    Big myth that we all live off our author earnings. Yeah, often that does pay the rent, but it's not going to cover expenses. Especially when it fluctuates so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think so! I don't know...I just send a partial. Then I wait to see if they like it (and try to forget I'm waiting so I don't spend the time biting my nails!). If they like it, they send a contract and I sign, then write the rest.

      Delete
  2. Attorneys are always depicted as court room litigators and lead glamorous lives. In reality, few ever see a court room and the work is boring and tedious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember wanting to be an attorney as a child when I saw that Goldie Hawn-Chevy Chase movie where she was one. My parents explained what being an attorney was really like. I worked with attorneys when I worked for state government and I have to say, for every day they spent in hearings (this was for the medical board), they spent weeks preparing. They researched, made phone calls...it was very heavy-duty work. People don't realize that!

      Delete
  3. I think films can certainly get many things wrong, even when they know they're portraying things incorrectly. It's whatever looks good, not what's correct.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's true! It's funny, though, that their depictions of writers always show how tough a time we have getting those words on the page. They certainly get that right, although it isn't really as outwardly apparent as it looks on screen. I actually do shower and get dressed every day and I'm not surrounded by wads of paper!

      Delete
  4. Great post, Stephanie. I can't add any wisdom at this point. But will let you know once I get a foot through the publishing door and experience it for myself. By the way, I love Mike and Molly - it always makes me laugh and we all know Molly's writing journey is rather 'out there!' Mind you, I loved it when she escaped her day job and jumped out the window. My exit from the classroom was a little more lady like but I wish I'd have thought of that :) What a way to go!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish they'd put all the Mike & Molly episodes on Netflix or Hulu Plus so I could watch them! I don't watch traditional TV and the CBS site never has more than a selection of episodes. I'd like to watch from the beginning!

      Delete
  5. To continue your train of thought, I think one of the biggest myths is all writers make a ton of money. One of my husband's co-workers found out I was a writer and asked him why he was still working there! Hilarious, right? Little did he know I jokingly call my husband "patron." Funny thing is it's true...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People really have no idea! I write full time but the money comes from writing about plumbing and business marketing...not exactly glamorous! Any book money I make is usually put right back into promoting the next book.

      Delete
  6. My mind went right to that movie Romancing the Stone - Kathleen Turner plays this famous romance writer and she's slogging around her house in glasses and a bathrobe - something like that. Much more realistic. Of course, then she ends up on a wild adventure with Michael Douglas.... Yeah, that happens to me every day. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the beginning of the movie is just about the only realistic part. Of course, as soon as her manuscript is finished, doesn't she march it directly to her publisher's office?!

      Delete
    2. Don't we all? I was thinking of going over there the next time I wanted to discuss my next book idea. How much are flights to NYC again?

      Delete
  7. Hollywood sure takes plenty of liberties with most everything. They also cut out the paperwork for most any job they portray, that is the bulk of such jobs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is true...and I can see why! Paperwork doesn't make for interesting screen time. Same with watching a writer send our manuscripts to publishers by email. So I guess I can see why the drama!

      Delete
  8. Ha, brilliant. Indeed, I love how writers seem to spend their time in publishing houses in those movies. What are they even doing there all the time? :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, right? I'm sure publishing houses would just LOVE it if writers came to their offices and camped out every day.

      Delete
  9. I drink lots of tea. Way too much tea. Speaking of, I need to put the kettle on. Toodles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe that's a requirement of living in England!

      Delete
  10. Despite how unrealistic it is, I still enjoy films featuring writers. Maybe the writers themselves who come up with these scripts are enjoying their writer-character fantasy lives as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I had to write about the fantasy of being a writer, I certainly would give us six-figure advances!

      Delete
  11. I don't drink alcohol or coffee when I write. So there. I hate stereotypes, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have one cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but my brain isn't awake enough for writing. I do drink a TON of water while I write, though!

      Delete
  12. Yes, the movies make it seem so glamorous, don't they? Forget the hair pulling and pounding the delete key. Forget getting an offer that makes you wonder why authors aren't deemed worthy of paying their bills. Nope. We're all get-rich-overnight wine drinkers. Yup, that sounds about right. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except the get rich overnight part, that's us, right?!

      Delete
  13. Yes, yes and yes! One of my favorites is that a book is finished after a first draft. Seriously. Because that's all it takes--one super inspired go and wah-lah! We have perfection! (Oh please.)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love what you wrote here! The write drunk was probably from Hemmingway but it is so true how Hollywood makes things look so easy. I think they do this in almost every aspect from opening up a business to getting into show business.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The other thing they get wrong is that the writer's only job is to write. Most writers I know are writing on the side for years before they ever get to write exclusively. They still have day jobs.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love this post! It's a shame as well as so many of my friends who are writers have to work a second job or fit in their creativity around full-time teaching, which they always feel a bit frustrated about as all they want to do is write! Great post and thank you so much for the lovely comments too! - Tasha

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wait, Molly wrote a book? I'm finishing season two and she has problems writing a simple marriage vow :)
    And most writers seem to have gorgeous houses near a forest or a lake or something, and they sit all comfy in a sweater in front of a window with panoramic view and they write.... yeah, right.... my window looks onto my neighbour's shed with car parts used as the roof :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've seen a lot of movies based on books. I often think someone was drunk writing some of them. Or at least the idiot behind the screenplay

    ReplyDelete
  19. I think Hollyweird gets most everything wrong. I also think they have to get it wrong to make the story interesting. I see tons of mistakes in the movies all the time. It's the way of things and I just say it makes for interesting television.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    ReplyDelete
  20. Ha! This is all so true. Hollywood should hire to you to get it right...surprising how WRITERS could get writers so wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  21. The reality of an author wouldn't be interesting enough to throw into most shows/movies. Sitting, staring at a screen, sitting, typing some more...the hundreds of turned down queries would make a good prop mountain ;)

    ReplyDelete
  22. ha, my mom was an active writer (for pay, now just for hobby) as I was growing up so I did know a lot of these. It was a lot of hard work! Also- from my perspective, blogging with anything over 1 glass of wine is a bad mistake. I wake up and cringe at my posts. So i don't do that, lol.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Movie characters and storylines are over the top... I take them all with a grain of salt, if it were only that easy xox

    ReplyDelete
  24. And here I thought all writers lived the life of Richard Castle ... LOL. It does always appear so glamorous on TV. None of the real hard work is shown.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hahahaha, I love it.
    However, a lot of creative artists indulge in "other activities" while they are creating. Some of them do their best work while doing so, lol.

    ReplyDelete
  26. LOL. My kids will see writers in movies and say, "See, Mom? it's easy!"

    Um yeah. Sure.

    As for that writing drunk thing...I do want to try that. Problem is, one drink in and I'm ready to socialize, screw the writing. Who wants to work when you're ready to par-tay?

    ReplyDelete
  27. LOL this was great! I love how the books are completed and signed for a big paycheck on the first draft . . . which is sometimes read while the author sits across the desk from the agent. The agent looks up—manuscript in hand—and says, "This is brilliant! We want to publish you!"

    ReplyDelete
  28. None of that applies to me, so I guess I'm not a writer. :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. It is only hard work that ever pays off it seems.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Only four myths?
    I suspect it would be more challenging to find four truths commonly sold to us by Hollywood.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Ha! Hollywood makes it look so easy. :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. LOL! It's funny, but yet before I started doing blog reviews and had more contact with authors, I had a lot of misconceptions.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Very true! I don't drink alcohol. My idea of drinking is soda, which is a big no-no, right? I just love how Hollywood makes people think that the whole publishing process if fast paced and how the whole process just happens overnight. Some people might actually think writing is that easy:)

    ReplyDelete
  34. I'm no writer but I knew it wasn't all that easy. My favorite fictional writer has to be "Carrie" from Sex in the City (shocker huh? lol) ...the way she writes her life in diary form with a cigarette in one hand and a cocktail or coffee in the other! Who wouldn't want to get paid to write about their life and always 'can't help but wonder' ...lol

    ReplyDelete
  35. I was watching some TV movie where the main character was a writer. I had to turn the thing off after 20 minutes due to the inanity of the situation. She was waiting for rejection letters through the mail! I mean, seriously? They didn't think that perhaps email in this day and age?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's amazing the amount of agents who still insist on snail mail!

      Delete
  36. You ht the nail on the head with these! I don't have any to add, but I agree with the ones you mentioned. I haven't ever visited my publishing company- except their website. :)
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
  37. NICE, hahahahaha.

    I haven't thought about if they are true or not, but I'm sharing my 5 movies with writer characters. :D

    Movies About Writers

    I hope you watched these movies and enjoyed them as much as I did!! lol

    ReplyDelete
  38. Time is the big pet peeve for me. I love the TV show "Castle", but he never writes! No way would he have the time to run around with the cops all the time and still produce best sellers.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Courtrooms always look bigger on TV or in the movies and the judge seemed so far away; actually closer in real life :)

    betty

    ReplyDelete
  40. I agree with Betty's comment, Stephanie, that the courtrooms are actually smaller in real life than depicted on television.

    ReplyDelete
  41. The dark and brooding comment made me laugh. I loved this post so much, Steph. I didn't want it to end!

    But if you think about it, they have to speed up the publishing industry for TV and the movies. If they used real speed, people would watch a TV series where nothing happened for years and years, except maybe the writer banging his head against the wall. There's only so long you can make rejection slips interesting.

    Another myth I'd like to see die...that someone who writes a column in an obscure NYC newspaper could afford a gorgeous apartment in the brownstones and $400,000 worth of shoes. Not to mention haute couture.

    Of course, I assume most people knew that one wasn't true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and how about how the agent who is always calling to chat and check on how the next book is going? I'm sure there's people who have great relationships with their agents, but no agent I know has time to do the best friend/sidekick/hand-holding thing. In the movies, they're often meeting in person and going out for dinner all the time too.

      Delete
  42. Now that you mentioned it, I can't think of another one to add to this list. Maybe Colin Firth's character in Love Actually? But not sure.

    These are funny, but true! Oh, how the movies exaggerate the reality.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Thank you very much for your comment. Love your books covers.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Great post, Stephanie. Hollywood never seems to get it right...or write.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Hi, I'm writing a book now and hope to have it published one day so I found this post to be very interesting and it also had me laughing. There's still a lot I need to learn, but I totally agree with the coffee and chocolate part... :)

    ReplyDelete
  46. That's so funny. I really love how the internet fb in particular has opened up dialogue between authors, readers and others so that most people know that things they see on tv just aren't true.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I can think of a are a lot of writers who did write drunk... and they're dead (some of the more famous are Hemingway, Fitzgerald, London, etc)

    ReplyDelete
  48. I've always wondered why this is so wrong for the reason you list: writers write these things, so why don't they write them right? Oh, but the worst are the forensics stuff, and most anything science related. Those make me cringe!

    ReplyDelete
  49. I like to have a beer or two when I write.
    But I did find, unlike John Candy, when I bump my head while writing, I don't wake up to a world where my characters actually exist.
    That could be interesting and scary at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Movie stereotypes kill me!!! Mostly the ones about business owners. They make it all peaches and cream.

    ReplyDelete
  51. too funny. thanks for real-life perspective. :)

    ReplyDelete
  52. That last pic is what gets me through:)

    ReplyDelete
  53. I saw those Mike & Molly episodes. I had to laugh when she bought a car with her advance. Right! LOL One thing they got right was Molly's need to do her own publicity once the book was published. The way she struggled with going public, tooting her own horn instead of staying home to write was quite familiar to me and I'm sure to many other writers too. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  54. You really would think that screen writers would get it right!

    ReplyDelete