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Turning Your Screenplay into a Novel: Where to Start?

If you’ve completed a full-length feature screenplay but are having trouble gaining traction with it, you may want to consider turning it into a novel. That way, you have the option to publish your work, and it’s usually easier than trying to sell a screenplay.

Still, there’s much more writing with a novel since the word count is significantly higher than in a screenplay. However, if you already have a written screenplay, that’ll grant you the outline and major plot points. It gives you a significant edge over entirely starting the process without anything.

Photo credit: Story Mastery

Is it Possible?

Before beginning the process, it’s worthwhile to know if your screenplay is worth adapting and if it’s possible. First, you must ask yourself what you aspire to be as a writer. If you plan on or hope to publish a novel and already have a script written, that’s the perfect scenario for adaptation.

On the contrary, if you have never thought about writing a novel, don’t waste your time doing this for the sake of doing it. Many novice writers worry about getting their name out there rather than focusing on the writing that makes them happy. If you want to write scripts and nothing else, focus on that.

Lastly, many people wonder if it’s possible to adapt their scripts. Although some scripts are more challenging to adapt into a novel than others, I think that anything is possible writing-wise. You can turn your screenplay into a novel if you have the patience and willingness to put the work in.

Don’t Worry About an Outline

Once you’re ready to start turning your script into a novel, a big plus is you don’t have to worry about an outline. Though you may outline some parts that aren’t in your script, you should have a treatment, character information, and outline already done that you can look to for your novel.

There are plenty of writing schools and experts that stress the importance of an outline no matter what writing endeavor you’re pursuing. As vital as those points are, it’s equally as valuable to go right into writing. Some writers focus on the outline portion to delay the challenging part; actually, writing.

Regardless, it’s different for every writer. If you can stick to deadlines you made for yourself, you can do whatever it is beforehand that’ll help your novel. Still, don’t neglect what you already did for your script. It’s there for you to utilize, and unless there are significant changes to the novel, use it!

Decide on the Point of View

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face in turning your screenplay into a novel is deciding on the point of view. The point of view refers to how your story will be written, typically in a third or first-person narrative structure. There are a couple of points to look at that may help you decide which will benefit your story the best.

First, if you have a story that heavily relies on a character’s voice-over—think Goodfellas (1990)—that’ll work really well if written in the first person. It can also work well if your script is based on something from personal experience. The standard third-person narrative should work well if your script doesn’t fall under either of those examples.

Begin the Process

After you have everything ready to begin the process and a point of view in mind, begin the writing process. It’s best to focus on the main points of your script, and you can fill the holes later. Consider looking at popular books to see how they’re structured—beats, chapter length, conflict points, etc.—to help with your writing process.

If you don’t read a lot, you should. You don’t have to delay your writing more by reading a bunch beforehand, but you should get deep into reading. As obvious as it may sound, reading will only benefit your writing. Try to find some books in a similar style or genre as yours and see how it’ll help.

Fill The Holes

As you get deeper into the writing process, you will find you won’t have enough content from your script to fulfill a full-length novel. Even if you did a minimum of 40,000 words, most scripts are between 7,500 and 20,000. Thus, you’ll need to create extra scenes to fill the holes.

You need to fill the holes in a way that doesn’t drag your story or make it feel monotonous. It’s about keeping the story without filling it with nonsense that doesn’t matter. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other scenarios and extra dialogue to enhance your story rather than take away from it.

Have a Daily Writing Goal

Like any other writing process, you must have a daily writing goal to ensure your novel is completed. Every writer is different, but even a daily goal of 250 words will guarantee you a first draft within a couple of months. Try to determine one that’ll fit your writing habits the best.


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