Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lessons learned from trenches: Part 13

Almost Hollywood

With the reaction that my short story More Than A Scam received, I thought I discovered the secret to writing a hit, which is work into your crime story something very topical that is on everyone’s mind. I tried that with the next book I wrote after Small Crimes, which was a bank heist book called Outsourced. The basic premise is a group of software engineers made obsolete due to outsourcing, in desperation try to rob a bank in a very clever manner and, as with most of my books, things not working out exactly as plan. Mixed into all this was commentary about outsourcing, as well as a fair amount of research on the subject by my part. Outsourced probably had more editors take this book to their editorial boards than any other book I’ve written, but here’s where I got burnt by wrapping this bank heist book up with a topical subject—in all cases these boards rejected the book out of worry that the subject wouldn’t be as topical by the time the book was published. It was all very frustrating, especially since at this time Small Crimes was still unsold. Just as I was getting ready to pack it all in and have a nice little bonfire with my unsold manuscripts, my agent at the time called. One of the big agents in Hollywood, this guy who has gotten several big hits made, loved Outsourced and wanted to take it on. This agent hooked a producer to the project and they pitched to the studios as a cable series, and for a while things were looking promising but in the end it fizzled out. But this bought me the necessary time to sell Small Crimes and to keep writing. Just when I thought the Outsourced film project was dead, this film agent called me last year (well, actually his secretary called me and then kept me on the line waiting for the agent. all kind of 60ish TV sitcom-type stuff) with news that the project was back on and this time as a feature film. The producer was still onboard, and we had just lined up a very hot screenwriting teams. One of the reasons this team was so hot was they just sold a film on spec to Russell Crowe for a lot of money, and that ended up being the downfall for this revival of Outsourced. Just as things were getting underway, this team had to drop out to fly to Australia to make changes for Crowe for the film they just sold him.

So where are things now? I knew I had a good bank heist novel buried in between the outsourcing stuff, and I knew the outsourcing stuff would ultimately always scare away any publisher, so I stripped that out of the novel and sped up the pacing and now have what I think is a very strong and muscular bank heist novel. My editor at Serpent’s Tail read this new version, which I call 28 Minutes, and liked this quite a bit and is recommending it to the publisher as long as I’m okay with a January 2011 publishing date, which is the earliest they can do since I have books coming out with them this year, 2009 and 2010, and they won’t do more than one book a year from an author. As far as my film agent is concerned, he can’t do anything again with it until I get a publishing deal, but once that happens, he feels he can get a film project for it underway. So with some luck 28 Minutes will at some point be coming to both bookstores and theatres everywhere. But again, this demonstrates how important patience is for a writer, and also being flexible and listening to what people are saying between the lines and making the changes you need to make.

1 comment:

Dave Zeltserman said...

News on Outsourced/28 Minutes. The film deal has happened--film options have been sold to Constantin Film Development and Impact Pictures with John Tomko (Ocean's 11, Falling Down) and Jeremy Bolt (Resident Evil, Death Race) to produce. I've also sold UK publishing rights to Serpent's Tail for a July 2010 release, and US rights are currently being worked out.