To say that book adaptations are popular would be an understatement. Stephen King received no fewer than four in 2017 alone, and has the same set for this year (although only PET SEMATARY has so far seen a release). But what’s the best way to write an adaptation?
There are a few key things if you want to write an adaptation. The first is the big difference in length between a book and a screenplay! The average novel is approximately 90,000 words (with something like WAR AND PEACE getting up over 580,000!), but the average screenplay is only about 15,000.
That means a lot of words need to get cut! A lot of things won’t make it from the book into your screenplay, so don’t try to include everything. But how do you know what to leave in and what to take out?
Here are our tips…
- Identify the central drama and themes, and use them as a signpost. If there’s a scene, subplot, or character that doesn’t add to the central drama, you don’t need it!
- Think about the roles that the different characters serve: what their purpose is in the story. Can any of those characters be combined into one? A screenplay can easily feel cluttered with characters who aren’t needed, so try rolling them into one.
- Look for the key points in the story, like the inciting incident and the turning points between the acts. These moments are absolutely vital; you should look to map them directly into your script and work from there.
- Don’t try to copy and paste the dialogue – it (probably) won’t work! The dialogue in a novel is meant to be read in our heads, but the dialogue in a screenplay is designed to be spoken out loud. That means it will usually need to be rewritten.
- Film is a visual medium – use that to your advantage! Where a novel may need many pages of description or inner monologues to convey a concept or thought, a script can do the same thing with a quick visual clue. Your audience should be able to see what is happening, so they don’t need it explained to them!
There are plenty of other things to think about if you want to write an adaptation, but we’d suggest this is where you start. Novels and screenplays are very different mediums – and that is a fact that shouldn’t be forgotten!
One other thing before you start writing: make sure you pick your project carefully. Some novels rely very heavily on interior thought and description to tell their stories, and won’t translate well to film which (as mentioned above!) is primarily visual.
And above all else, make sure you love the book you’re turning into a script! There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a project before starting to regret it.
Already finished your script, adaptation or otherwise? Think you’ve got what it takes to impress us? The WriteMovies Fall 2019 Screenwriting Competition is now open for submissions – click here to find out more and enter today!
Our inaugural Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award may have closed for submission, but the WriteMovies Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest goes on – and the final deadline is now just one month away!
Your last chance to enter will be on Sunday June 16th, with a Grand Prize of $2000 plus guaranteed pitching to industry and a year of free script development for the top three scripts. So get to work polishing that dialogue, tweaking your story, and fleshing out those characters, and make sure you give us lots of reasons to get excited!
But what will help you to get our attention? Here are some things we look out for:
- A unique concept. We read a lot of scripts, so show us something we haven’t seen before!
- Fully rounded characters that we love. If we’re invested in the people, we’ll always want to keep reading!
- Strong commercial potential. If the project won’t make money, it has little chance of getting made.
- A great opening. Make sure you grab us with the first ten pages. First impressions matter!
You should also take a look at our Director Ian Kennedy’s article on “What your writing submissions are telling us” for some hints and tips on what mistakes to avoid, and more details on what we’re after.
And then, when you’re finally ready… Click here to submit to the WriteMovies Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest by June 16th!
Writing a script is hard work, but getting a script turned into an actual movie can be even harder. There are all sorts of obstacles standing in the way, not least the key decision-makers and producers who will actually be responsible for the whole project. So how do you get these people to say yes to your work?
One of the most important things that a lot of writers forget about is making sure that their script is commercially viable. Caught up in so many great ideas, they write whatever comes to mind with no thought for cost – but if the film unlikely to make a profit, then a producer is unlikely to want to back it. After all, their job may well be on the line!
Here are some tips to make your script more commercially viable…
- Ask yourself who is going to go and watch your film. Who is this going to appeal to? Who is your target audience? These are the kind of necessary questions that producers ask all the time; if you find that you’re not certain of the answer, then it might be time to have a rethink.
- Reduce the number of locations. By having all the action take place in only a few places, you’re massively reducing costs. A great example of this is RESERVOIR DOGS, which was predominantly set in an empty warehouse.
- Another way to reduce costs is to tone down the action. You might have some great set pieces planned out in your head, but every stunt takes time and money to plan and perform. Can you cut the helicopters out? Can you have only one explosion instead of three? The scene doesn’t have to always to be loud to be exciting!
- On a similar note, cut down on the crowd scenes. Extras have to paid and fed – each and everyone of them is costing the production money. If possible, even having a small cast of two or three is even better – that means paying even fewer actors!
- A lot of Hollywood blockbusters seem to be overloaded with special effects these days, but they don’t come cheap. They might be an unavoidable cost in science-fiction and fantasy, but see if you can find a way to cut down on them.
In short, when the budget is small and there’s a clear audience, producers are much more likely to say yes to your work. A small cast, a handful of locations, small-scale action (or none whatsoever) are all things that can help on this front, and give your script the best chance of thriving in a competitive industry.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a great example of film that does this well. There is always an audience for horror films, and by keeping its costs so low, it became the most profitable film ever made based on return on investment, making an impressive $193 million off a budget of just $15,000.
So when you sit down to write, make sure you think first about the commercial side of things – specifically, whether there’s enough of an audience for your script to claw back the money that will be used to make it. That’s part of the key to making your way as a successful screenwriter!
A huge thanks to everyone who has entered our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest so far – we’re hard at work reading through your scripts! While the official deadline was yesterday, we’re announcing a one week extension to deal with technical and administrative issues we’ve been having recently – so we’ll be accepting further entries until January 20th!
The prizes we’re offering in our Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest are:
- A grand prize of $2500, up from $2000!
- Top three scripts all receive a year of free script development worth up to $3200, with detailed analysis and advice on structure, characters, commercial viability, and other important aspects.
- Top three scripts all receive guaranteed pitching to industry, including packaging and promoting the projects to professional producers, directors, and actors!
- Plus exclusive prizes from InkTip, and more!
Thank-you for your patience during the email issues we’ve been having over the last few weeks, which has been the result of problems with our hosting. WriteMovies will be moving to new hosting shortly, which should resolve all the problems we’ve been having (and if you’d like to know which hosting provider we’d never recommend, feel free to get in contact with us privately!)
If you have sent us an enquiry at any point recently and not received a reply, contact us again now at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will endeavor to resolve your query as quickly as possible.
This might be the last time we run a contest in this format, so don’t miss out on this chance. Click here to submit by Sunday 20th January and take the first steps on your screenwriting journey with WriteMovies!
We’ve got another great script to present to you! Our Spring 2018 contest 2nd place script is KLONDIKE MIKE by Thomas Zmiarovich!
This hilarious family comedy has an unusual Alaskan setting, lovable characters, and brilliant set pieces that will have you roaring with laughter. A big congratulations to Tom for his win; he receives Development Notes, previews of our Virtual Film School, exclusive prizes from InkTip, and more! Read on to find out more about this script…
Here’s the logline for KLONDIKE MIKE:
A family start a new life in Alaska where they encounter extreme wildlife and an eccentric local prospector with a talent for finding gold…
And the writer’s summary of his script:
In this adventurous family comedy, Sam McCord inherits a gold claim and decides to put his dead-end job with a corporate mega-store chain on hold and move his dysfunctional family to Alaska for the summer in hopes to strike it rich and solve all his problems.
Virtually dragging his wife, 16-year-old son and 9-year old genius daughter to the wilds of Alaska, he soon realizes that he knows nothing about working a gold claim. At a local saloon, Sam meets Klondike Mike, a rustic, flamboyant, vagabond lady’s man prospector, who convinces Sam he’d make the perfect straw boss to run the claim. With no other options, Sam hires him, and under Klondike’s direction the claim is soon running like clockwork. So, what could go wrong?
For Sam, everything – from pesky Yellow Jacket attacks, feisty raccoon encounters, cell phone-outhouse mishaps, Magic Mushroom trips with a cookie eating Grizzly bear, and the underhanded dealings with the Bible thumping claim jumpers trying to steal Sam’s claim back. Not to mention, Sam’s worries that his children admire Klondike more than him.
Thomas Zmiarovich Bio:
Born in Seattle, in the shadow of the aerospace giant, Boeing, my love for movies began as far back as I can remember. From the age of 10, much of my paper route money found its way to the cheap, week-day, matinees in summer at the Columbia City theater, a mile walk from my home on Beacon Hill. Sci-fi, comedy, action, you name it, I could have lived there if I could.
As an adult, I never lost that love of the big screen. Even as I raised a family and worked as a Tool Design Engineer, for Boeing. I always dreamed that I had something to contribute to the craft I loved so much.
Through the years, I wrote my stories and scripts, developing and learning the craft of writing and story-telling from names like Stanley Kramer, Abby Mann, Michael Hauge, Richard Walter, and others. I’ve had scripts finish in the quarter and semi-finals at Nichol, Austin, and others; am a finalist with Script Pipeline and the Washington State Screenplay Competition; and have had numerous Top Ten finishers.
My love of story telling will never allow me to stop trying to get those stories to the big screen for all to see.
WriteMovies Academy is almost here! Phase 1 is all about concept and theme development, but if you’re already ready to write, we’ve got you sorted. You can use “Phase 0: Project Selection” to make sure you’ve got a viable script – and it’s totally free when you buy the whole course!
Nobody wants to spend weeks of their life writing a screenplay only to realize they’re pursuing the wrong project – and that’s where Phase 0 of WriteMovies Academy can help. This phase of our virtual film school can help you choose the best project right from the start, with advice and recommendations from an industry expert.
So if you think you’ve got all your concepts in order and want to give Phase 1 a miss, and jump straight in to the other parts of the course, Phase 0 is here to help!
It includes all sorts of tools for defining your projects and picking out the most objectively viable ones, perfect for development through the other phases of the Academy. You’ll receive feedback on all your ideas, with webinars and activities to work through – all of which will allow you to identify your goals and which project will help you achieve them.
As with all phases of WriteMovies Academy, you can complete Phase 0 in your own time and at your own pace. You set your own deadlines; this is a course that works around you and your life.
Phase 0 is the perfect way to start your screenwriting journey with WriteMovies, and you get it for free when you buy the rest of the course, saving $250 in the process! Take a look at Phase 0 in more depth here…
Or buy all six phases here and get Phase 0 free!
Among the many screenplays we received in our Spring 2018 Contest, one television script stood out. It advanced all the way to the finals of our overall contest as well as winning this award – HOLLYWOOD’S MOST WANTED: I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, ESE by Manny Jimenez Sr.!
Television may have long seemed like film’s little brother, but the truth is much more complex. A television pilot is only the first episode in a much longer story arc – so it has to convince us that there’s series potential that will keep audiences coming back time and time again!
Congratulations to Manny for winning in this category; his script made us laugh with its great premise and wacky situations. He now receives a copy of our Confidential Studio Manual and exclusive previews of our Virtual Film School as his prizes, plus a set of Development Notes to give him professional feedback on his work.
Read on to find out more about the winning script – HOLLYWOOD’S MOST WANTED: I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, ESE!
Here’s Manny’s summary of his script…
“HOLLYWOOD’S MOST WANTED is a single-camera, comedy-drama series based on the life of Manny Jimenez and Suspect Entertainment.
From the ‘hood to Hollywood, Manny takes his knowledge of gang-banging and turns it into dealmaking. He straddles two worlds — fatherhood, and managing former gang members — turning the latter not into actors but into law-abiding citizens. In the process, Manny becomes the C.A.A. of East L.A.”
And a short biography of Manny, too…
“LA gang member-turned-filmmaker Manny Jimenez Sr. took his knowledge of the streets and applied them to Hollywood. Manny’s unique journey has led him to be the subject of numerous news stories on CNN, ABC, Fox, Telemundo and Univision. They’ve also led to articles in newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Entertainment Weekly and Emmy.
As a gang consultant, Manny worked on such films as Ali G Indahouse, Training Day and Criminal starring Diego Luna. Gang-consulting led to screenwriting. Manny believes authenticity is key and he writes from the truth. Now, as a screenwriter, producer, and finally taking a seat in the coveted director’s chair, Manny wrote and directed the short film A Way Out — an anti-gang story that will be used to deter at-risk youths.
Although working in the entertainment industry is Manny’s main endeavor, he has found his true purpose in life by guiding young people towards finding their passion and showing them that there is a better life without drugs and gangs.
Take a look at Manny’s YouTube page here: https://www.youtube.com/c/MannyJimenezSr
Manny has won previews of the WriteMovies Academy, and Phase 1 opens on September 15th – join now to take your work to take your screenwriting and production skills to the next level!