Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How to Adapt Your Novel Into a Screenplay

I am thrilled to introduce you to Sam Wilson of Any Possibility. She is a screenwriter in LA who specializes in helping writers with career strategy. I first came across Sam's work on her fun instagram account that had great insights into the life of a working writer, especially one who collaborates with others so well. If you dream of writing with other writers in cool cafes in LA, you will want to take a break from your workday and head over to her account to see how she does it.
I have talked to more than one writer who wonders how to best tackle writing a screenplay or adapt their novel into a screenplay. Her website is must visit for resources and she is also sharing strategy with us today.

Without further ado...

How to Adapt Your Novel into a Screenplay
Guest Post by Any Possibility

Have you ever written a book and thought, this would make a great movie? Don’t stop there! Consider turning your novel into a television pilot or a web series as well. Now is the time to learn how to adapt your novel into a script. The entertainment industry thrives off of intellectual property adaptations, so where exactly should you start?

Turning your novel into a script means that you are about to become a translator. Condensing your novel into screenplay format takes time, patience, and creativity. You have a set number of pages to convey your story in the most visual way possible. 

Structure and Length
Scripts follow a strict format. Think in these terms: one page equals one minute of screen time. That’s why movie scripts are between 90-120 pages, comedy pilots are around 30 pages, and drama pilots are around 60 pages.

Pacing is of the essence. Typically, each scene in a script is about two to four pages. The scenes should build up one by one to covey the arc of your story and main character(s).

When adapting your novel into a script, choose the key plot points (aka the pivotal moments in your story that move the plot forward externally and/or emotionally). Use specific scenes as the anchors of your story.

A popular outlining method for scripts is the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, which says a movie can be broken down into forty scenes. This is just one of many approaches, but it certainly is something to check out.

There are always exceptions, but learn the rules in order to break them!

Scene description
Keep your scene description visual, clear, and concise. Cut any wordage that you would not be able to see on screen. Where a novel might thrive off of paragraphs of description, thick passages in a script are a red flag for a reader. Break large chunks into two or three sentence descriptions.

Where a novel gives you room to dive inside your character’s head and touch upon all five senses, a screenplay has less room to go in depth in that way. A script is not in its final form; it is meant to be filmed. What is written on the page has to be able to be seen by an audience or it does not matter in the context of the screenwriting medium.

Present and Active
Scene description in a script is written in third person present tense. Keep your verbs active and engaging. Find a visual way to portray internal problems or quirks. “Show don’t tell” is of the essence in a script.

In a book, you might say something like “the diner was as empty as her stomach. Emily couldn’t remember her last meal, which was typical - anxiety made her forget to eat. She sat at the counter and rang the service bell.” In a script, you could say, “An empty diner. Emily rushes to the counter. Her stomach grumbles audibly. She taps the service bell three times.”

Kill Your Darlings
Do away with the non-essentials. Kill off or condense supporting characters, take out unnecessary subplots, and cut down lengthy scene description. You might think something you’ve written – a scene or a character – is incredibly witty or poignant, but remember in a screenplay, the page count limits you. If it doesn’t service your plot or if it is redundant, cut it.

Everything you love in your book will not make it into the script. Close your eyes, cover up your heartache, and press on. You’ve got this!

Check out Any Possibility for more tips and tricks on how to foray into screenwriting and join the free 7-day email series THE WRITE TRACK to jumpstart your screenwriting career.

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