Thursday, February 26, 2015

Writing the Screenplay BEFORE You Write the Novel

Last week at the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium I went to a fantastic panel on screenplay writing. I learned a lot of valuable stuff, like the fact that there's about a gazillion screenplays that you can read FOR FREE on the internet. Also that if you want to write screenplays professionally, you need to plunk down your $200 for Final Draft because industry professionals can smell a screenplay that has been formatted in any other way.

But the most amazing, game-changing idea I heard in that panel was this. If you want to write a novel, write the screenplay FIRST.

Susan Kaye Quinn has already done a few fantastic posts on Scribblers Cove about using screenplay structure in a novel, but this takes it a step further. Here are some benefits of writing the screenplay before you write the novel:
  1. A screenplay is more fun to read and to write than an outline.
  2. Using the storytelling structure of a screenplay will help your novel's pacing.
  3. When you write a screenplay, all you have to do is focus on what's going on and what's being said. Later on,when you write the novel, you can worry about how to convey that to the audience in an artistic manner with well-refined prose.
  4. It is easier to adapt a screenplay to a novel than the other way around.
  5. It is easier to adapt a novel to a screenplay if that novel has been a screenplay in a previous life, possibly making a movie option more likely to come along.
If you want to try your hand at writing screenplays but don't want to cough up the money for Final Draft, here's a website that will show you how to turn Microsoft Word into a great screenwriting tool. I did it yesterday and it took me less than an hour, and now I'm flying through writing my first screenplay.

Keep writing, everyone!
Rebecca J. Carlson