Ten easy steps for screenwriters to turn that unproduced script into a novel.
Well, okay, not entirely easy, but doable.
(Previously published in Written By, the journal of the WGAw, as How To Become A Novelist In Your Spare Time.)
1. I bet you have that unproduced script that you’ve always secretly thought would make a great novel. Pull that out and let yourself remember everything you loved about it. If it’s been sold or optioned in the past, consult with your lawyer and the guild Contracts Department to make sure you have the unencumbered right to write a novel.
2. Now, take that script, and format it as a Word Document, double-spaced. Look at that! You have 80 (rough) pages of a novel already!
3. Now, start at page one and start adding words, images, descriptions – all that stuff that we have to compress and combine and edit and shorthand when we’re writing a script. When I was writing The Harrowing and The Price I really did think of the process as directing onto the page (Cast it, production design it, light it, score it, edit it…). You will be shocked at how quickly in this process you will find the point of view and the voice of your narrator or point-of-view character – which is truly the most fun part of writing a novel. You’ve read a million books – the fact is you actually know how to do this already.
4. Work on the novel every day. Even if it’s only five stolen minutes at a time. Commit to it and your creative mind will realize you’re serious and work overtime to make it happen.
5. Start to familiarize yourself with the publishing industry through the vast number of internet resources available to you. I’ve compiled a list, with links, of everything I wish I had known about publishing before I broke in, and tons of free resources available to authors (I've compiled some links on my website.)
6. Find a great critique group or a critique buddy. It’s a sad fact that overworked and underpaid editors don’t edit much any more, and they expect authors to get intensive editing notes from critique groups or beta readers.
7. Read your work aloud. Your entire book. To yourself or others. There is no better way to catch errors and awkwardnesses, and polish the flow and pacing of a novel, than reading aloud.
8. When the book is wonderful and amazing, the best you can make it, use your film agent to help you get a literary agent. That’s your fastest route in. But also, literary agents are far more accessible than film agents; they actually go to writing conferences specifically to meet aspiring authors and hear pitches.
9. Network in the genre community (ies) that suits your book. Authors are mindblowingly supportive of up-and-coming authors, and there are blogs and message boards where you can meet authors who can do worlds to help you, from passing your book on to their agent (really!) to providing you with those all-important blurbs for the cover.
10. Know that you can do this! There is nothing different about it but the medium – it’s all writing. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to try.
- Alexandra Sokoloff