Some Things I’d Like to Do

The end of the year is not a bad time to think about some of the things one would like to try one’s hand at moving forward. And to that end, here are some things I’ve been thinking about doing at some point in the future. Note that this is not a list of things I am making a resolution to do, or things I necessarily have planned to do in the next year (and yes, I have things planned for the next year). It’s just a list of stuff that I’d like to get around to before I, you know, am hit by a bus and/or get bored with creating stuff and just pack it all in to do nothing but watch movies on Netflix for the rest of my life.

In no particular order:

1. Write a romantic comedy. Because I like romantic comedies; probably my favorite movie of all time is The Philadelphia Story, which is a romantic comedy, and that’s followed closely by Tootsie, which is also a romantic comedy, with cross dressing. The best romantic comedies have a wit and crackle to their dialogue that I love; it’s people sizing each other up as people and then falling in love (or back in love, as the plot may require). It seems like something that wouldn’t be entirely outside my range of writing competence, given how I write characters and dialogue. So it’s very high on my list of things to try.

Somewhat related to this:

2. Write a script. One of the reasons I was so delighted to be able to work on Stargate: Universe for the last two years is that in addition to everything else it was, it was a screen writing school for me. I was paid to look at scripts, see how they work and how they function, and learn about the form and its uses. Before I started working on SG:U I would have been totally at a loss on how to begin writing a script. Today, I’m not going to claim that any script I would write would be good, but at the very least it would recognizably be a script.

In the case of writing a script I can see myself doing what I did when I first tried writing a novel, which is to do a “practice” one first — just thinking up some story I’m not hugely mentally invested and then going off and writing and not worrying if it’s worth reading by anyone else, but rather just doing it to learn what I need to do better the next time. It worked reasonably well with the novels. I don’t imagine script writing would become anything more than a sideline to what I do — the barrier to getting a screenplay produced is massively higher than it is for publishing a novel — but it would still be fun to try it and see what I think of the form. Thanks, SG:U.

3. Put together some more music. This would definitely be a hobby-level sort of thing. But you know what? I enjoyed putting together Music for Headphones back in the day, simply because it was enjoyable to do, and also because it gave me a no-pressure creative outlet. No one expects me to make music worth listening to, or worth buying, so if I never do there’s no problem there. I’m a big believer in monetizing one’s enthusiasms — it’s how I’ve made a living for as long as I’ve made a living — but somewhere along the way I learned that you don’t have to make an attempt to monetize everything you like to do. Sometimes you just do it because you like it and that’s that.

4. Write more non-fiction. If one studies my bibliography, one sees that I’ve written nearly as many non-fiction books as novels, although of course recently it’s been the fiction that’s gotten the most attention, and the last two non-fiction books (notwithstanding a second edition of my astronomy book) were compilations of entries here. I’d like to write another purpose-built non-fiction book (i.e., one with its own idea, with contents not previously published elsewhere) as much to keep that part of my brain engaged as anything else. This, at least, is something I know I can do, since I’ve done it before.

5. Take another stab at a YA novel. A couple of years ago I spent a fair amount of time developing a YA series for a publisher only to have the project fall apart in the contract negotiation phase of things. This was a frustrating development, as you might imagine, especially since I think that project was in fact very cool (the project fell apart over the money, not the idea). Since that time it’s been on the back burner simply because I’ve had other things to work on, but I think at some point in the near future I may put that project or another YA idea out on the market and see what it does. YA has some impressive writers in it, and it would be nice to have something of mine along their works.

So those are some of the things I’m thinking about doing. Will any of them come to pass? We’ll see. As I said, no timetable on these. They’ll happen or they won’t. But I think I’d enjoy each.

54 Comments on “Some Things I’d Like to Do”

  1. You could totally do a romantic comedy. Just by reading your other works and seeing what happens with different characters, a romantic comedy could either be done stand alone or as a continuance for characters in other stories. BTW: Philadelphia Story and Tootsie are classic films full of awesome!

    As for your script writing skills, maybe bringing one of your books to the silver screen can put a stop to a couple of horrible reboots. Please, bring some originality to the silver screen, please…

    Music is totally awesome, I work on new play-lists for myself and others, it can be relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. Just enjoy when you do it and keep an ear on outside artists. There have been some incredible new talent who are finally getting main stream air.

    As for your non-fiction writing, maybe you can combine it with your script writing. More and more documentaries and stories are becoming popular. I can see it now,,,John Scalzi Reality Show….hmmm….

    What is YA?

  2. an interesting and varied list! Have you come up with these kinds of viable wish lists before… and if so, how many wishes came true? Or is this a “first-time” list? It seems like many of your thoughts are growing off of snippets of things that you’ve been doing. Just thinking about your “creative process” in terms of things that I’d have on my wish list.

  3. Because I like romantic comedies; probably my favorite movie of all time is The Philadelphia Story, which is a romantic comedy,

    How do you feel about High Society, John?

  4. That all sounds great and everything but if you found time to do some, oh I don’t know, adult sci fi that would be good too…
    Just an idea.

  5. I’m putting in my vote for the YA. As far as I’m concerned, the best YA is almost indistinguishable from any other fiction…only not so much boinking. Having left behind my Young Adulthood a few decades ago hasn’t prevented me from enjoying the hell out of Terry Pratchett’s forays or any of Scott Westerfield’s stuff.

  6. Let me throw in another vote for YA. Zoe’s Tale could easily have fit into a YA collection. You can do a good realistic YA ‘voice’, and I’m tired of vampires.

  7. I was all in favor of the YA stuff until I read Nathan’s comment. Thats backwards – I want MORE boinking ;-D

  8. John, not to imply you are a greedy son-of-a-bitch, but wouldn’t writing another OMW novel be the surest way for you to make the most money? As I understand it, they have been your top selling works, and have a strong fan base. You’ve been pretty honest about describing how financial motivations affect your choice of work, so why do you keep passing up what appears to the naive outsider as your most guaranteed big money raiser?

    Clearly, as a member of the aforementioned fan base, I have my own interest in seeing that universe further developed. But it still seems surprising to me that you don’t choose to ride that particular gravy train. Is it a matter of needing to do something different to challenge yourself, or not currently having ideas for those characters that you think would make a good story? Or is it just not the ATM I assume it is?

  9. Matthew in Austin:

    a) Bear in mind that as noted in the entry, this is a list of things I’d like to do at some point, not a list of things I will do in the immediate future.

    b) There’s no point in grinding out another OMW book if I’m going to be bored with it; I’ll do another OMW book when/if there’s something interesting I want to explore in the universe, with characters who are interesting to be with.

    c) I make enough money not to be motivated purely by it.

  10. Can we vote? I mean, this being a dictatorship of one, may we raise our voices and not fear being struck down from on high by GLORIOUS LEADER?


    Romantic comedy would be lovely to see from you John. The way you wrote about marriage, love and loss in the Old Man’s War books was so humane and true. Too often the blur of sci-fi OMGAWESUMLAZERBEAMS! loses that the human dimension. It’s what’s made it easy for me, as a librarian, to recommend your books to people who wouldn’t normally find themselves reading about alien warfare.

    Also, I admire your sentiment about monetizing your enthusiasms. People my age (late 20’s early 30’s) who’ve seen the job market collapse like a dying star, have found that to be the best way to keep yourself in ramen and beer.

  11. I’ve always wanted to watch a romantic comedy about a guy who is obsessed with having his wife pretend to be her evil twin from an alternate universe who is pretending to be his wife in order to extract information.

    Come on John, it’s gold! How could it go wrong?

  12. If you want a to have a go at a script, try Celtx, its free, and does a pretty decent job of proper formatting.

    I would love to see you do some more YA. I’m not to fond of the majority of YA published, would like to see more options out there, especially with your high standards.

  13. Rob Wright:

    I own Final Draft, actually, since I’ve used it for other purposes (i.e., scripts, but not ones for TV or movies — for consulting clients, basically).

  14. … the barrier to getting a screenplay produced is massively higher than it is for publishing a novel…

    True, but surely your stint with SG:U has given you something the average dreamer doesn’t have: names to drop. Okay, so it’s a toehold about 6 inches up the side of the barrier. It’s a start.

    Thumbs up on doing what you love, if for no other reason than to confuse the “money over all” people.

  15. Re: time for sci-fi. A fair thought. You wouldn’t be the first to leave an entire genre because other sparkly ideas caught your full attention. Not altogether different than being done with a character(s).

  16. John,

    I meant no offence with my remark @5, but, failed humor or no, I’d really like to read more Scalzi Sci Fi.

    I’ll go wait patiently now..

  17. And there was me thinking that “Old Man’s War” WAS a romantic comedy. Guess my perceptions really are skewed since the operation…

  18. Relax, folks. I’m still writing science fiction and will be for the foreseeable future — and remember, I have a novel coming out in May. These are things I would like to do too, not instead of.

  19. Speaking of romantic comedies, have you seen Castle? It’s up to season 3 now. Nathan Fillon and (newcomer?) Stania Katic have the best lines, and a lot of the fun is watching them jab at each other. The sidekicks (white guy and Hispanic guy, whose names I can’t remember) are also absolutely hilarious, especially when ganging up on either Castle (Fillon) or Beckitt (Katic). You could get script ideas AND enjoy watching the comedy at the same time. Plus, plot, plot, actual arc/series PLOT that (so far) does not have tons of holes in it or beggar disbelief! (That’s so rare nowadays…)

  20. John,

    I prefer Final Draft myself, however, I have my students use Celtx because it’s hard to beat free :D.

  21. Hmmm… a romantic comedy eh? Sounds interesting. How about one where a man falls in love with a container of sentient yogurt, but it can never be because he’s lactose intolerant.

    Either way, it’s good you still have things you want to do after everything you’ve already done. The day you run out of things you want to do is the day you should pack it in and go herd goats or something.

    Hmmm… maybe the yogurt could be made from goat milk?


  22. How about a science fiction romantic comedy? The women would like it for the romance and sparking dialogue, the men for the stuff that blows up real good. Something for everyone.

    I think that in their best moments, Star Wars (the first movie) and Firefly flirted with elements of romantic comedy, but neither took it very far. In the right hands, SFROM (new genre alert) could be awesome.

  23. Nice list John, best wishes on these in the new year. I also count Philadelphia Story at the top of my list. Also love It Happened One Night. You don’t often see romantic comedies as witty or rich these days.

  24. Based on previous experience, I have to estimate that whatever you write, it will be awesome. I mean, anyone who can do straight-forward military SF, fantasy as dark as dutch licorice, and chapter-long fart jokes, all of them excellent, should be able to write just about anything.

  25. I read this: “There’s no point in grinding out another OMW book if I’m going to be bored with it; I’ll do another OMW book when/if there’s something interesting I want to explore in the universe, with characters who are interesting to be with.”

    All I have to say about that is: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Too much work today starts with the idea “let’s do another —- book/movie/tv series/etc.” Does anyone really think someone walked into a boardroom and said “I’ve got a great new idea for a series set in the Star Trek universe”? Or is it more likely that the discussion started with “what’s the next series we’re going to do in the Star Trek universe?” I’ll be buying the next OMW novel should it come to pass and will know it came to be because there was a story to tell, not a “marketing opportunity”.

    BTW, seems like a good script opportunity might be a screenplay adaptation of Old Man’s War? Just an idea…

  26. And, yeah…writing scripts is hard. Different from prose. I’ve taken three cracks at it and maybe the last one is actually competent….

  27. I love reading comments……..

    Have you ever been in a place where you had NO idea what you wanted to do?? I’m there right now, I work 5 days a week which doesn’t leave much time for anything. I can’t afford to go back to school to finish my BA. I’m not that great at making a decsision and the fact that I’m so indifferent about everything isn’t helping my cause… I need to win the lottery that would be great but not holding my breath for that or anything.

    I’m sure that whatever you are able to accomplish this year it will be great.

  28. A romantic comedy (or comedy-tragedy) would be a welcome addition to your repertoire. I’ve watched The Philadelphia Story many many times, although my favorite romantic comedy is probably Bringing Up Baby (wouldn’t it be cool to remake that, or retool it for modern or future times?). Casablanca however takes the cake for my all time favorite.

    Have you read Bujold’s A Civil Campaign? I laughed so hard I couldn’t see the page for the tears.

    I have no doubt you could bring me to the same uncontrollable chortling.

  29. YASFRomCOm for the win. C’mom John, RomCom is all about the snappy patter, and you rule snappy patter.

    How about The Philadelphia Experiment Story? No?

    Seriously, though, I could see a comedy about two miss-matched YA falling in love while caught up in time-travel hijinks. (If you don’t write it, I’ll have to, and that would be a terrible thing to inflict on the world.)

  30. I have a story that I’d write it if I had any talent, and it’s a non-fiction romance that involves YA as comedic relief: Non-Nazi American woman marries non-Nazi German reporter in 1939. WWII breaks out while they’re on their way over to Berlin. She stays in Berlin until the Soviets take the city. She escapes to the American lines because the Soviets weren’t, well, polite guests. The lady used to be my neighbor.

    Part 1 of 10 starts here:

  31. this just popped into my head – given your foray into the Fuzzie universe, here’s another possible update of a past classic: Lucky Starr. I’ve always loved that Asimov wrote those books KNOWING that they would be scientifically inaccurate relatively quickly, but still trying to get as much actual science into them as he could. Maybe someone who writes good SF action and has actually published books on astronomy could take a pass at doing the “new” Lucky Starr series telling young readers what we currently know about the solar system????

  32. I would like some flight time on a jet pack. santa brought me some time on a helicopter, so I wont complain about that. but one of these days i’d like a quick jaunt as rocketman. a think they only have like 90 seconds of fuel or something. and i have no idea how much a tank would cost. but if we are putting in wishes for the coming year, that would be one.

    and it would be cool if i could finish my novel and screenplay and get both of them out there. but really that would probably just be a means to the end that is time on a jetpack.

  33. For a really excellent romantic comedy, see the works of Jennifer Crusie. Specifically, Bet Me which the the romance voted Best Romance to Give to Someone Who Does Not Read Romance by the good folks over at SBTB.

  34. I get the impression that you care about social justice issues more than most people. I think I’ve even read a few things here that are solidly feminist. So, I’m a bit puzzled that you like rom com. It’s a genre whose humor boils down to reducing women to stereotypes.

    Now, maybe there’s a way to make a rom com that isn’t about how women are neurotic and/or pathetic until they’re “fixed” by the corrective love of a man (whom she probably despised at their first meeting, with very good reason). But you might want to keep in mind that you’re heading into a mine field of misogyny. Have you thought about this aspect of the genre and how you’d approach it?

    I’d love to know that someone is out there trying to dismantle damaging stereotypes. I hope that’s what you’d aim for, and I wish you luck. I’m just not sure it’s possible to accomplish that and still have the result be recognizably a rom com.

    I know that what I’ve said is likely to be troll bait. So to anyone who posts any derailing comments (“you have no sense of humor, you feminazi,” “but here’s one example that’s not all that sexist, so the rom com genre is totally okay,” “I don’t find rom com offensive, so you have no right to be,” etc.): I’m ignoring you. Also, I won’t even be participating in non-trollish discussions of the genre, not because I think it’s unimportant, but I simply don’t have the time or spoons for it right now. I just wanted to put a bug in John’s ear about this issue in hopes that his rom coms won’t be sexist. Because I don’t think he really wants to do that, and I’m curious how he’d avoid it.

  35. Seems to me that if someone “wanted to put a bug in John’s ear” but didn’t want to hang around to participate in a discussion, it might be better to just send him an email.

    That said, I think non-sexist(/non-heterosexist/non-etc) RomCom could be an interesting discussion here if can be done in a not-responding-to-Kat way, and if it’s acceptable thread drift.

  36. @ 43 Bearpaw: Oh, please do have a discussion. I think it’s a good one to have. There are smart people here who have important things to say on the subject, I’m sure. I’m just excusing myself this time around. So as long as John doesn’t feel it’s beyond the scope of the thread, feel free to respond to what I posted. Just be aware that I’m unlikely to respond, regardless of how amazing anyone’s contributions might be.

  37. Kat:

    “So, I’m a bit puzzled that you like rom com. It’s a genre whose humor boils down to reducing women to stereotypes.”

    Meh. There’s nothing about positing a comedy about two people falling in love that’s inherently about gender stereotypes. This is not to say that many romcoms aren’t full of gender stereotypes, rather that it’s not the form, it’s the execution.

  38. bearpaw, I was watching a romantic comedy by the name of “Leap Year” about a woman who comes up with a plan to propose to her foot-dragging boyfriend. she goed to ireland, gets lost, and ends up hiring a local man to help her back to civilization. which then became a fairly recycled plot for say “romancing the stone”. but goes back to a number of the old John Wayne movies that also starred

  39. (dont know how that posted mid message but oh well)

    …that also starred Katherine Hepburn.

    although it seems that Katherine usually played a character with a little more spunk than romancing the stone had with Kathlene Turner.

    but strong male character, annoying, callous, indifferent, hard, tough, with some nasty habits, who is familiar with the ways of the world in which he operates,

    is hired by a woman who is unable to do some job herself.

    often the woman plays the ‘fish out of water’ story plot character arc. and the man plays a land-based, air-breathing character that guides the woman and gets done the thing she wanted done.

    i dont know that the story is inherently sexist, but it is fairly common with a woman playing the fish and the man playing the air breathing character. I am trying to think of stories where men play the fish out of water role and women play the air breathing character.

    the first Underworld movie did that. Kate Beckinsale was the tough character and the doctor/male was pulled into the world of vampires/werewolves like a fish out of water.

    IIn the Matrix, Trinity starts out as the bad ass and Neo is clueless. there seem to be at least some movies that go that way.

    I dont know older movies much so I cant think of many old movies where the man is the fish out of water compared to the woman. but a movie buff might know of some.

  40. maybe the problem isnt sexism but more an outcome of that law that says 90% of everything is crap.

  41. Come on John! Break the normal Rom.Com. genre lines!

    Do a Rom.Com. about two Hermaphrodites!

  42. A common element in ANY comedy is a) someone does something stupid, b) someone lies about something and spends the story frantically trying to cover, c) someone is the crazy one and the “sane” one tries to deal with it.

    Now it’s really pretty easy to write a BAD comedy using stereotypes; ergo, writing a BAD romantic comedy would be easy to use sexist stereotypes.

  43. John, if you do get around to writing romantic comedy, I’d love to see you do an updated version of P.G. Wodehouse the same way you did an updated version of Heinlein with Old Man’s War. I have no idea what that would look like, but that’s why you’re the writer and I’m not. Please tell me you’ve read Wodehouse, if not, I will send you some! He’s probably my favorite writer of all time.

  44. Please oh please write the script of OMW yourself. And if acting is grownups playing dress-up, then scriptwriting is the grown up version of playing with dolls. I did in fact study TV production mumble mumble years ago for the exact reason that my fingers itched to take actors and dress them up and make them bring my words and thoughts to life. (Not that I have any real creativity, alas. I’m a regular Bag O’Cliches[tm], But that’s the way the ball bounces, eh?)

  45. RomCom is my favorite genre when it is done well. But like any genre, there is a lot of bad and very little really good.

    I will second the Jennifer Crusie recommendation. But I would suggest “Faking It” rather than “Bet Me”. I think it funnier.

    Ms. Crusie along with author Lucy March do a weekly rom com movie review. Each Friday, they watch a movie, have messages boards to discuss real time, and the Jenny and Lucy do a podcast discussing the comedy, romance, and structure of the movie. And lots of other writerly stuff. They are doing a survey of rom coms from the 30s to the present. The web site is Popcorn Dialogues which I can’t link to because it is blocked here at work. But it would be an excellent stop for research.

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