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REVERSE ADAPTATION: Should You Turn Your Script Into a Novel?

Take your scripts, and turn it into a novel. I know it’s a lot of work, and 80,000 words seems incredibly daunting, but you are so far ahead of the game, writer, and you don’t even know it.

Russell Nohelty owns Wannabe Press, an indie publishing house which specializes in turning scripts into novels in order to get the most profitability for his IP. Wannabe Press optioned their first script in 2015, off a novel called My Father Didn’t Kill Himself. Follow Russell on Twitter: @russellnohelty

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Should You Turn Your Script Into a Novel? by Russell Nohelty | Script Magazine #screenwriting #scriptchat

Writing a movie script is hard. Really hard. Especially the first, probably the second, certainly the third, and absolutely the 100th. It never gets easier, staring at a blank page, developing characters from scratch, plotting an intricate story full of subplots and layers, giving characters enough meaty dialog and action to interest the hottest actor on the market.

That is really hard work. And when you’ve done all that work, and made all your pitches, and still nothing happens, what then? It just sits on your hard drive gathering dust until eventually somebody takes a shine to it?

There has to be a better way. There has to be something you can to make all your hard work pay off, even a little bit, even if it’s just to build an audience.

Luckily, there is. You can pivot, take your scripts, and turn it into a novel. I know it’s a lot of work, and 80,000 words seems incredibly daunting, but you are so far ahead of the game, writer, and you don’t even know it.

I want to tell you the best reasons to turn your script into a novel, but first I want to give you a very broad overview of the novel writing process.

1. So how does one write a novel, anyway?
If there’s one thing I hear over and over again, it’s the writing a novel is too hard, but is it really? See if any of these steps sounds familiar?

a. Brainstorm and flesh out a world.
This is the first step in any novel project. You can’t make something or develop a structure if you don’t know the world, and you need to know it cold. It helps to write short stories or other narrative to make the world feel real.

b. Fill the world with characters.
After you build the structure and backstory of the world, you have to figure out the main characters of your story. They need to be deep, compelling, and three dimensional. They all have to sound unique, and be driven by different interests.

c. Write an outline.
After you have the world and the character, you need an outline. Whether that’s a beat sheet or a long form outline, you need a structure to tell your story properly.

d. Nail down a treatment.
After you have a basic outline, then comes a chapter-by-chapter outline of your story. You need to know where each story goes and make sure to handle all the throughlines effectively.

e. Write the novel.
Once you are confident in the treatment, it’s time to finally write your novel.

Does any of that sound familiar? It should, because you’ve already gone through the first four steps without even knowing it! You have a beat sheet, you have compelling characters, you have a structure, you know the characters from writing a whole script about them, and you can write their dialog in your sleep. It’s all there; you just need some direction.

2. 80,000 is so many words.
True. The average movie script is 10,000. The average novel is 80,000 words. So yes, technically writing a book is like writing eight screenplays in length, but in reality a novel is just taking a screenplay and fleshing out all the good parts.

Here’s the thing: A screenwriter has no control over how the finished product looks or feels. You write a script, then you sell a script, then you sit back and hope the production team can make the script look good.

That’s a lot of hope.

With a novel, you have every bit of control. If you think that the film on the dewy window should feel soapy instead of slick, there is nobody stopping you from saying exactly that. Remember, you’ve already got the outline and your script; all you have to do is connect the dots.

Also, you don’t HAVE to write 80,000 words.

3. Your book doesn’t have to be long.
I’m not a fan of long novels. Maybe it comes from my scriptwriting background, but I think anything over 250 pages is too long. Because of that, none of my novels top 70,000 words, and my first one was less than 40,000!

Yes, there are a lot of longer books, but that doesn’t mean yours HAS to be one. I’ve seen Kindle books under 20,000! I’ve seen 5-6 book series where each book is less than 30,000 words because that’s what the author intended. There are no rules except what your audience will tolerate.

The #1 rule in novels is there are no rules. My first book was middle-grade fiction, my next two were graphic novels, then a children’s book. My newest novel, launching in February, is told all in blog posts between two best friends as the deal with loss and grief.

4. There is so much for flexibility in books.
Many scripts written aren’t right for movies. Movies are meant to be big, bold, and entertaining. Yes, they can be small art houses pieces too, but in this day and age those are fewer to come upon and harder to get made without a really great producer.

Novels on the other hand have none of those rules. There are highbrow novels, low-brow novels, mystery, sci-fi, graphic novels, fantasy, western and everything in between. Books are short and books are long. Some are told in first person and others in third, and some are told all in letters.

Movies, however great, have a format and a formula. They have beats they need to hit. They need to be cinematic and clock in at 90-120 pages. Even the most art-house movie has constraints it needs to conform to, namely a budget.

Novels on the other hand, have no budget. They can be as expansive of intimate as you want them to be, and there is an audience for both!

5. You can build an audience from scratch!
This is one of my favorite reasons to write a novel. Movies are home-run hitters. Either you knock it out of the park and everybody knows your name, or you sit in obscurity forever. With novels that’s not the case. With a novel you can go to cons, sell on Kindle, meet with fans, and build your base one book at a time, one person at a time.

Then, when you go to that development meeting, instead of guessing who’ll want your book, you know! You can tell the producer how many books you sold and get them excited that people are excited about your project. Having both together strengthens your case and makes people more likely to buy your script!

6. Writing a novel makes your script more desirable.
We all know that producers want stories that have been successful in other mediums. That’s the way of the screenwriting world. On top of that, writing a novels makes you an authority in your field, if you do it right. You will get positive reviews, interviews, and maybe even be asked to speak on panels.

Meanwhile, the amount of links you have on Google is growing, people are talking about you, interest in your project is growing, and people could even be contacting you about writing for them.

If you want help actually turning your script into a novel with my EXACT formula of how to make it not stressful at all (it should be fun!), then I’ll be hosting a webinar -- Turn Your Script Into A Novel.

Turning Your Script Into a Novel Webinar with Russell Nohelty



At a Glance:

  • This live webinar is for people who already have a tight, finished script ready for production
  • This webinar shows you exactly how to think about your script like a novel and translate it starting TODAY.
  • If you want to turn your script into a novel to start building an audience, get more attention for your property, and make new fans, this webinar is for you.

Join the novel-writing fun at Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference, every year in October in Pasadena to learn more about the world of novel writing!