I just wrote my first screenplay from one of my novels and in some ways it was easier than I thought it would be. But, keep in mind that no one has told me yet they want to buy it, develop it, and make it into a major motion picture so I could be fooling myself into thinking that my screenplay is worth anything.
What made it fun is that I adapted my novel to a 100 page script. That means that I knew the story inside out, knew the characters (especially because I wrote 5 books with the same two people at the heart of each story) and I was deeply familiar with what drove the story forward.
Here's what I learned about adapting a novel to a screenplay, in point form because we are all busy people!
- Read all the books on how to write a screenplay, including Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
- Read them again, make notes
- Read 10 screenplays that are similar to what you are writing
- Watch movies to see how sparse the dialogue actually is
- Without re-reading your novel, write down the ten key scenes that MUST be in the movie
- If your book doesn't begin with a scene that grabs an audience and sets the tone of the whole movie, write one.
- Buy a set of index cards and figure out 50 ish scenes for your story. Put them in order.
- Combine scenes to end with 40 ish scenes (You can do it!)
- Make sure you follow the 15 Beats that Blake Snyder suggests and hit the marks at appropriate page numbers. eg) page 5 mention the heart of the whole story
-Start scenes as late as you can, finish early.
- Feel free to move scenes around to create a better flow.
- Buy Final Draft software so you can write this thing in the proper format ($200)
- Start writing scenes. Keep it lean. Imagine the big screen.
- Avoid wrylies, slug lines must be capitalized, don't give actors direction, don't mention camera angles or music.
- Keep it around 100 pages for a spec screenplay - movie people get bored easily.
- Re-read it 20 times for typos, dialogue problems. Tighten the action lines.
- Assume the director and actors will read the book to get the gist of the story/characters
- Print it according to specifications if you're sending it out.
And, I'm seriously considering using a company that does script consultations seeing this is my first screenplay and my books are being optioned and the film company asked me to write the spec screenplays. (they have faith in me- yikes!)
Good luck with your screenplay and if you are a novelist, remember that you are already a writer and now you just have to edit the thing down to almost nothing, like reducing a sauce on the stove to make it less watery and more flavorful.
KIM HORNSBY is an Amazon #1 Bestselling novelist who lives in the Seattle area and writes books about women in dire circumstances rescuing themselves.