Somebody Wrote That

The best writing is never a solo act.2011 - Copy

by Andy Scheer

Book publishing is collaborative. But it’s nothing compared to making feature films.

I got a great lesson in the history of both in 1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood’s Greatest Year by Charles F. Adams (2014, Craven Street Books).

I’m far from a film buff, but I gleaned some interesting tidbits about the creation of:

  • Gone With the Wind
  • Stagecoach
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Wizard of Oz

Can’t imagine anyone else playing Scarlett O’Hara or Dorothy? The producers did.

Wonder how the screenwriters condensed Gone with the Wind to 222 minutes? The process wasn’t pretty.

Mostly interested in books, I appreciate how Charles F. Adams digs into how each original book or short story came to be written. I never suspected Oz originated in L. Frank Baum’s weekend storytelling sessions with his own children and others from the neighborhood. Testing your tales with a focus group is nothing new.

Sometimes the best ideas spring spontaneously. Adams reports:

This morning, one of them asked a question several of them had wondered about: What was the name of this strange land? Baum didn’t have a quick answer, but then he happened to glace over at his filing cabinet. The top drawer was labeled “A-N.” The bottom cabinet said “O-Z.” “Why,” he said, “this story took place in a land called ‘Oz’!”

If it’s not true, it should be.

Whether you’re a methodical plotter or an impulse-driven pantser, these vignettes into the writing of Peggy Marsh, Ernest Haycox, Sidney Buchman, Arthur Conan Doyle, Samuel Clemens, and L. Frank Baum should prove entertaining and instructive.

Just don’t try to submit a stack of 1,200 marked-up manuscript pages missing the first chapter and featuring a heroine named Pansy O’Hara.

About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.
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