A Novel is Not a Screenplay
To assist the modification from page to screen by meeting the market half-way, writers are chasing the more lucrative side of wordsmithing by hammering out books which have the actions, expressions and dialogue of movie characters.
If you are dreaming of seeing your work as a major motion picture, professional screenwriters can adapt existing books, hence the words ‘based on’ when you view a book-to-movie deal.
Read on for my thoughts on the situation…
Good news for the future of the film industry but what about the book industry?
Should a writer write a novel similar to a filmscript? I guess if you are determined enough you can learn, but what are you sacrificing along the way? Formatting is important; not too much, not too little. Your characters will be noticeably shallower, the scenery will be sketchy and the action will be like every TV series you have ever watched.
Bend to a market whim? What makes the difference is being different! With or without a movie contract, if you write in a hybrid format, your novel has less chance of standing amongst the notables of your decade. I’ve read several amalgams in the last month. Believe me, it shows.
In my opinion, there is a market for the TV-ready book/screen blend of writing but it is light-weight and not the same as solid, descriptive, memorable words which feed a book reader’s imagination.
And herein lies the problem. There are eager new readers just the same as in the past, but now they are looking for ‘movie action’ because they have grown up with on-demand screens. Substance is not as favourable, skimming is the name of the game.
Again, I say this is a disservice to the reader as well as the book industry.
It’s a long haul and immediate gain for the primary writer is unlikely. Say a director/producer likes your work, every page you have written means extra money is needed in production and, as we know, the financial aspect rules. Gone are the days of blockbuster world success—think LOTR or J K Rowling’s Harry Potter.
Durability is the name of the game. You can find countless info and advice on writing a screenplay or TV script and if you want to do it you will—bearing in mind that any formula has restrictions, your manuscript will not resemble the finished product.
Look closely at Michael Connelly and other writers who have made the transition, in particular their previous jobs. They will have ‘connections’, they will move house ‘to be closer to their work’, they will have ‘legal advice’, an abundance of ‘good luck’, an ‘understanding family’ and other clichés but not the words ‘smooth sailing’.
Write with your heart, write something strong and original, write a standalone which shines with your own unique qualities.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
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