Breathe New Life Into Your Novel – Convert It Into A Screenplay
What? You’ve spent all that time crafting your novel, honing and editing down to the last syllable, and now I’m asking you to throw it all up in the air and convert it into a screenplay? Yep.
No, I’m not losing my senses. It could well be the breakthrough you’ve been after.
I must admit I love screenplays. I can guarantee that before I’ve turned over page 20 of your novel I’m thinking “This would work well as a film”, or “These characters and the set up would make for a terrific TV drama”. I can’t help it.
In the past month or so I’ve read countless sample chapters of novels by writers struggling to find some recognition here on WordPress and I can honestly say there have been some great little reads, some excellent characters and storylines all of which would lend themselves to being converted into decent screenplays.
Okay, there have been one or two novels that would have to be wrestled to the ground and beaten to death before they could be converted, that’s obvious, but honestly the vast majority I’m sure would work. It’s just a case of sitting down and thinking how you might do it.
There would be challenges, of course. All those pages of ‘inner dialogue’ would have to be represented in some other way. All those exotic locations would definitely have to go. This is 2013. Screenplay budgets are tight. Would that scene on the beach in the Maldives work as well on the beach at Skegness? Only joking. But I’m sure you get the idea.
A friend of mine who is in the screenplay writing business once gave me the following piece of advice…. “A novel writer is the last person you should ask to convert a book into a screenplay. Especially their own. Come on, get real. They’ve fallen in love with the stuff they’ve written and now you’re asking them to kill all their best work, murder it, rip it apart, stick the boot in, and come up with something fresh and original in its place? Give me a break. It wouldn’t work.” Mind you she had taken a drink or two at the time.
But maybe she did have a point. It wouldn’t be easy. I never said it would.
Personally I would adopt the mindset that it’s like a puzzle. Try and distance myself from all that clever writing, word play. Think ‘big picture’….. what must go in, what can be left out or shown in a better way?
We could always move scenes around or switch them to another location, or join two or three scenes together, keep it bouncing along, think ‘action’ rather than ‘inner turmoil’…..
I would set up the skeleton outline of a 120 page film script, running time almost 2 hours. I’d pencil in the break points between the three Acts, jot down the page numbers where our main characters have to hit the dramatic ‘marks’….and so on. Yes, I know I’m talking ‘formula film making’ but it does get it written and on the page…..
And that’s it really. The final word of advice (for what it’s worth) is don’t take it too seriously. Have fun with it. Play around. Don’t be frightened to kill off a character or two here and there or maybe bring in another one. It’s your story. No one ever said the screenplay has to follow the novel. If it doesn’t work out between you and your new screenplay, you still have your beautiful novel intact.