Attica Locke, whose novel "Black Water Rising" is up for the Orange Prize, told the Independent newspaper that she started on her novel after a frustrating ten years writing screenplays that were never made. She said:
"People in the industry have great intentions but, ultimately, I came to a place where I needed a break from it," she said. The idea to write fiction came to Locke while she was wandering around a bookshop in Los Angeles. "I kept reading the first pages of novels and thinking 'I can do this'."
To give herself the time to write, she took out a second mortgage on her home. Looks like it paid off!
Having worked in Hollywood, I can relate. You can make good money getting your scripts optioned (or sometimes even bought) but they go into development hell and never see the light of day. One friend of mine was paid a million dollars for a script that was never made (I have to say although I wish it had been produced, the million was pretty good balm--and now the rights have reverted to him and it may be turned into a mini-series). I was in that limbo of options but no production myself (although never with million dollar payouts, alas) and it does get frustrating.
Of course there's no guarantee that the world of novels will be any more receptive--and the money is nowhere near as good unless you have that rare best-seller. It comes down to where your passion lies and how long your savings (or second mortgage) can hold out.
(Writing a novel or screenplay? Need to organize your time better? See my book, "Focus: use the power of targeted thinking to get more done--free bonus materials are at the book's website, www.focusquick.com)