Have You Thought About Novelizing Your Screenplay?

Erik WolterThe following is a guest blog by Erik V. Wolter. Erik is an author, screenwriter and producer. His book, Break the Stage, was published in 2014 and a movie of the same name is currently in production.

Getting hired to write the screenplay for Break the Stage came as a result of striking up a conversation with a Director with his own production company while working out at a fitness center. That assignment led to them optioning a series of scripts and even some unfinished projects of mine they liked because they are looking for movies with a positive message for young people. The suggestion to novelize the script followed shortly after a final draft of the script was approved.

Both TV and feature filmmakers have fallen in love with adaptations of novels, especially but not exclusively true stories. Because of my first book, Loyalty on Trial, and the adaptation of a novel I did for a production company with the rights to The Trials of Adrian Wheeler, I now get asked to adapt other books to screenplays or the reverse, novelize a script.

Break the Stage, the book, is a novelization of my script. As a result, it reads somewhat like the movie but with details, back story, and personal reflection of the characters that sometimes fail to come across in a visual medium. I always admired real novelists for their prose and poetic style and was (still am) thoroughly intimidated by their talent. Novelistic style in a screenplay is verboten, so lucky me. I am most comfortable with screenwriting, but willing to work on the skills of writing one finds in a traditional novel. For now, I prefer to pursue novelizations because I’m not ready to write a full-fledged novel, and honestly I would be hard-pressed to find the time. Your situation may be different.

Novelizing the script into a 220 page, 40,000 word Y/A novel took a little more than 3 months. That was the deadline dictated by the production company. I met the deadline despite working on other projects at the same time. With the structure, storyline, and dialogue already in place, I wasn’t starting from scratch. And if you can find a good writing coach you can pick up the style needed to come across as a professional. I found mine after the fact, but that’s another story.

You may find that you have underestimated your ability to write a novel and embark on a new career. I have a few historical fiction scripts that by their very nature tend to be too episodic for film. Time permitting, I plan on tackling at least one as an experiment. If you have anything like that in a file somewhere, novelizing it may get your story out in a book form and develop a following. That, in turn, could pique the interest of producers who before might have been likely to overlook it as a movie.

While novelizing my script, I saw the opportunity to embellish scenes or add scenes that didn’t exist in the script. Sometimes it was just a small plot point or a dialogue revision that enhanced the story. Adding those into the script where possible was an additional benefit. In my case, where the movie had already been cast, the actors were given the book and appreciated getting to know their character better and also ended up with a firmer grasp of the story.

So don’t discount novelization. It could open doors for your career that were not only closed before, but you didn’t even know existed.

Mads Black

About Mads Black

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Mads is a Scandinavian-born, Los Angeles-based actor and aspiring film maker. He's dabbled in stunt driving (no one got hurt) and once rescued a baby bunny from his garage.

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  1. Thanks for the insight, Erik. I plan to do both!

    Susie Lindau / Reply
  2. Nice article. The whole idea of turning your script into a novel that can be optioned as a movie fascinates me, and I write about the subject on my own blog at http://bit.ly/19WG0oH. I hope others interested in increasing their marketability as writers might find it useful.

    Richard Garrison / Reply

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