Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Finished first draft of "the mu rhythm bluff" screenplay. Now what?

As some people know, nearly six years ago, I wrote and published a novel, "The mu rhythm bluff" about an autistic man who undergoes an experimental treatment to help his autism, but instead it turns him into an expert poker player.  I dreamed of it being a commercial success and being made into a movie, an accomplishment that happens with very few novels.

Getting it published by a commercial house was too difficult, so I decided to take the easy route that has become available in the 21st century, self-publishing it on Amazon.  It basically went nowhere and I probably sold not much more than 200 copies.  

Shortly after I published it, the daughter of a friend of my mom's who worked for the film maker Virgin Produced found the plot of my novel compelling.  She asked me if the rights were available and if I could send her a .pdf copy which she would pass around to her colleagues.  I happily obliged.  She wrote me an email saying 'thank you' and that was the last I heard from her.  What would have been a coup for a mediocre self-published novel did not come to fruition.

I would still be interested in having it made into a movie, so I decided to take a break from some other projects still on the burner and write a screenplay version of it.  I have now done that.  Though it is probably too long and I've written enough material for a two and a half hour movie, so it likely needs significant condensing and reworking.  A screenplay is supposed to be about 120 pages in the correct format, which comes out to approximately a two hour movie.  (A page equals a minute of film time).  With a length of more than 150 pages it is likely too long. 

I'm not even sure I got the format right, but I did my best.  I've heard about software you can buy that does formatting for you, and there's a good chance I will get it.  Next step is to have it printed out so I can have a hard copy.

Self-publishing a book is one thing, but it is probably not feasible for most people to invest in the capital to make it into a movie.  If I ever reach the step where it's ready for submission anywhere, I will certainly have an uphill battle getting it onto the big screen.  Also, I'm not sure how much I like the title "the mu rhythm bluff".  I'd like to call it something else, but I'm dumbstruck as far as thinking of a title is concerned.  I'm not sure how marketable a story about poker would be to the big screen.  There have been some poker movies, but I think most of them were low budget and did not do well.  Rounders with Matt Damon was one that saw the light of day, but was not exactly a box office success.  At the time though, No limit Hold 'Em was not as popular as it is now.

After I'd written four novels without success, I decided to try something new.  Anyone who has spent any minimal amount of time reading this blog knows that it's mostly devoted to scathing criticism of the neurodiversity movement which I detest.  Therefore, I decided I'd write a non-fiction book refuting the tenets of neurodiversity.

I thought it might be easier than fiction, because it did not require the imagination to think of certain things, and I already had a fair amount of material I could recycle from blog posts and other writings.  However, I was certainly wrong.  My disability made it hard for me to concentrate and apply myself as it always does.  The book required an inordinate amount of research and I spent over three years writing it and reading various articles to do the best research to dispute this philosophy.  It was made harder by the fact that in the last few years, more and more has been happening in the neurodiversity world and I had to update the manuscript at various points and there are new things that have happened since that I have not included in the book,  Baron-Cohen's remarks about comparing pro-cure people to nazis and Klansmen the most prominent.  

However, I managed to write a first draft, which I spent time revising and reworking.  I had a manuscript, but the question then as I pose it now was 'now what'.  It was likely not ready for submission and I did not want to spend $3,000 on an editor I could not afford who might not even be helpful, let alone greatly increasing the chances of having it published anywhere.  I did, however, send it along to a few agents who turned it down.  I decided to send it to Jessica Kingsley, which admittedly might not be the best fit for an anti-ND book.  Not surprisingly, they turned it down.

After this, I decided to take a break from the nonfiction book and write a screenplay version of my self-published novel.  Again, I thought this would be an easier project than my last two.  After all, I already had the story written out in prose form and a screenplay is less labor intense than a book length manuscript.  For the second time, I was dead wrong.  I had no familiarity with screenplay format and had to learn from a book and reading examples of screenplays which were made into films that saw the light of day.  Also, condensing a 91,000 word novel into an approximately 120 page screenplay format which would be less than a third of the length of  the novel.  I struggled with this for a time because of my disability, but have finally managed to write a first draft.

I guess the lesson learned in all this is that nothing good comes easily.   

So, again, the question is 'now what?'  I will continue working on this project, but maybe try to devote time to other endeavors, but I'm not sure how far I will go with it.  I realize it is unlikely it will ever be made into a movie, but I can dream can't I?

I may or may not keep readers updated about more work on this screenplay in progress.  However, just in case, stay tuned.  


cubeangel said...

You know, some ppl's work didn't become famous until long after they were dead.


Keep writing for fun and write your stuff so maybe future generations can appreciate your stuff.

Anonymous said...

Being on the spectrum, I have trouble writing, I know it in my head but not in words.
I try to explain it, using too much paraphrasing and long metaphors before reaching the point, that's if the other person doesn't lose patience reading it. I fear ambiguity too, that makes it worse.

I hope your editor has experience with people with ASD. I'd want one who has. But the contents of your blog posts are well organized already.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jonathan,
I've really enjoyed reading through your blog. I spent ages 4 to 11 in special education and over 5 years of my adult life in a secure psychiatric facility.

I too have concerns about the ND movement usurping the public autism narrative. It strikes me that the most vocal advocates are very far removed from my lived experiences of autism, both my own and others I have had contact with.

I'm not a professional editor, but I do have some experience in the world of self-publishing. I would be happy to proofread anything non-fiction that you want to get ready for publication.

We follow each other on Twitter, and I can be reached at:

jonathan said...

Yes, I've seen you on Twitter. Thanks for the comments, Tom, and I'll contact you if I need help.

Andrew said...

Hi Jonathan! Long time reader and first time commenter.

You wrote"

"It basically went nowhere and I probably sold not much more than 200 copies."

This is a travesty. In a just world your novel would be, if not a best-seller, at least a best-seller in the the sci-fi ghetto.

Your work has been compared mostly to Daniel Keyes Flowers for Algernon, with your work regarded as superior. I am of this opinion too. You have the ability to make science fiction technologies seem plausible in the context of current knowledge. You are to neurology what Kim Stanley Robinson is to space travel.

I have tried to promote your work on a few sci-fi blogs, but that went nowhere, as I am basically a nobody whose personal story is similar to your own.

jonathan said...

Andrew, thanks so much for your kind words about my work. Glad you liked "the mu rhythm bluff"