Screenwriting : Which comes first, the book or the screenplay? by Donna Cobb

Donna Cobb

Which comes first, the book or the screenplay?

Someone told me that if I'm planning on making my book into a movie, that I should write the screenplay first. I'm probably 2/3 through my novel and began writing a screenplay based on it. What happened was pretty interesting...they became two very different things. Has that happened to anyone else?

George Lamptey

I would say it does not matter and either. The idea and passion for the story comes first. Whether it's a novel, screenplay or you now decide to make an audio version. The thing is your creativity never ends and starting the screenplay now as you have done creates a new dynamic. At this point what version enthuses you more?

Jess Hinds

Write what your most passionate about.

Thomas Ray

I wrote TWO Screenplays from two of my own novellas. I think the Book approach first works best. You can go down the manuscript, lifting action lines and dialogue. Of course some of the wording has to be changed to fit the tense of the script format. And you have to drop a lot of what goes on in the character's minds---but you will be surprised at what still comes through if the dialogue is written cleverly enough . Yes, the novel and the Script ARE different--as the nature of the respective mediums are different. We can get into the heads of the characters better in the novel, but the Script is a more Visual approach that we "SEE". ---Yet the two can tell the SAME story.

Wes Reed

Based on the recent Hollywood norm it seems the best strategy is , regretfully, to make your story a comic book first.

Thomas Ray

Hey, I have been tempted to do that-- The "frames" in My Video that I made from Gimp and Second Life characters into a story board outline video, looks VERY much like an illustrated novel. With a LOT of work I could do the entire Script this way----- But then again I STILL prefer to do a Script instead if I can get away with it. I'll do a comic book (or web comic) version only if I get desperate enough to just "get the story out there"

Gregory Kauffman

Here is a quote from the Wikipedia entry of _Dances With Wolves_. "Originally written as a spec script by Michael Blake, it went unsold in the mid-1980s. However, Kevin Costner had starred in Blake's only previous film, Stacy's Knights (1983), and encouraged Blake in early 1986 to turn the Western screenplay into a novel to improve its chances of being produced."

Edward St.Boniface

I've adapted self published novels into (unproduced so far) screenplays and also have a couple of screenplays written years ago which I've been thinking of turning into novels. If your original story in either medium is strong you should have no trouble adapting either way. But converting a novel into a screenplay inevitably means condensing both a lot of scenes and characters. The screenplay isn't a literary form but more in the nature of a blueprint with strong narrative drive. Sometimes that can be the main theme or one of the lesser themes of a novel to give it more dramatic impact. For me, I've found the thing to keep in mind is why I began the novel in the first place, what I was trying to say; and try to get back to that point when embarking on the screenplay instead of trying to transfer novel to script almost verbatim. Hope this helps!

Niksa Maric

I have a link for a Company or Agency which turns screenplays into books, so they claim on their website. I'm not sure but I think they take something like 25% of total sale. It sounds fair to me.

Wes Reed

Interesting Niksa. Would you care to make the link public?

Thomas Ray

I Personally do not like that idea. In the BOOK you can get all kind of nuances that film cannot capture. You can get into the HEAD of the protagonist. Know what he is thinking and why he reacts the way he does. Any book made from a typical Screenplay would not have such inside information--or at least as much of it. Most would have to be made up by the "ghost author"--or else would tend to be a "Hollow shell" of a story. THAT is why it is best to have the BOOK FIRST. So when the Screenplay is written the author can tailor the Script to at least reflect the inner mind and motivations of the protag and other characters that the book describes. It does not work as well in reverse as the medium is different and the Script is much shorter.

Niksa Maric

Until I find the link, which is written down on endless pile of papers take a look at this site. There are many others with similar topic. You should also look at this site, maybe it can help.

Thomas Ray

IM just saying, Making a book from a MOVIE will not work nearly as well as the other way around ---- you would have to add quite a lot to make a 400 page book from a 100 page script even IF "A picture is worth 1000 words"

Christopher Chance

I wrote three books that were published by the Random House Group (Mainstream) and Strand, UK. I have since adapted them to screenplays and one has been optioned and another earmarked for the sequel. The third is not yet finished but will be ready for pitching soon. I find that cramming 250 pages of book into 110 pages of script is challenging and I discovered that writing a script from scratch is much easier and much more enjoyable. Another important issue is retaining the film rights to your work if you write the book first. Don't be frightened of negotiating this with your publisher. One of my future projects is to write a book about my spec script titled, BLOWN. I am sure I can write 400 pages of compelling reading when I get around to it. In the meantime I am totally engrossed in my screenwriting projects.

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