Authors often ask how they can adapt their fiction novel into screenplay format for film or a book into a script for a documentary. Many published authors don't know how to write a screenplay to enter our Screenplay Contest.
This applies to both mainstream authors and Indie Authors and is especially relevant for Indie Authors who don't have a literary agent to sell their book to a film production company.
So, how do you convert and adapt your novels into a screenplay format, in other words a script, to enter it into our Screenplay Award, or in fact any screenplay writing contest?
Differences Between Novels and Screenplays
- Novels can jump time periods easily and don't always have to be linear or structured. With screenplays, there should usually be a clear three-act structure, but some screenplays do have a four-act structure.
- Whichever way your novel's story is played out, when adapting your story to a screenplay format, there needs to be a excellent reason for your adapted screenplay to be told non-linearly.
- With novels, you get a book cover with your story description on the back cover that tells a reader if this is a book they want to read. With screenplays this isn't the case, so it's the first 10 pages or so that have to grab the film producer, or they won't read further.
- Just as the first page of a book is important to hook the reader to continue reading, equally the first page of a screenplay tells the film producer or actor if they want to be involved in the story. More so, for the screenplay, it really could be the make or break of selling the story to a film production company.
- With screenplays, everything has to be on the screen. You can't write about what the character is feeling or thinking. Instead, you have to show it through visuals, character behaviour, their actions and in their dialogue.
- Novels can explore the backstories and histories of your character over many pages. In a screenplay, you don't have that luxury because of the time your screenplay will be shown on the screen. Thus, your backstory must be woven into the current story or shown in a flashback that's less than four pages.
- Novels can be 200–500 pages while screenplays are usually 85-130 pages. Therefore, novels can give a much more detailed, intricate description and explanation about stories, settings and characters and really explore—in words—what the characters are thinking, imagining, pondering, remembering and even feeling.
- Instead of two pages of character description that you would use in a novel, you only get two lines or so in a screenplay.
- In a screenplay adaptation, two or three different characters from the novel will be combined into ONE character in a screenplay.
- Your novel's first page may not necessarily be how your screenplay adaptation will open the film.
- Try to include the same themes and mood and tone from the novel into the adapted screenplay, because this is what built the novel's reading fans, so that tone needs to translate onto the film script or television series screenplay.
Adapting A Book To A Screenplay
Okay, so how do you actually start the adaptation process?
It's important to be realistic about adapting your novel to a screenplay before you enter it into a Screenplay Contest. Ask yourself if your novel's story is visual or cinematic enough to be worthy of an adaptation.
Apart from a screenplay or script format, what's mentioned above is about the only differences between screenplay and novels. Be sure you find out everything about adapting a novel to a screenplay.