Book to Screen Adaptation Tips

While most writers are content with having their book in print or readily available online, some others dream of seeing their efforts reworked into movies and screenplays. For such writers in the second category, the feeling may be that having their books adapted for the screen is the ultimate validation of success and recognition for their efforts.

Many book writers go on to carry out this adaption seamlessly, while some others find the process a tad challenging. This is because writing a screenplay is technically different from writing a book. While books are more descriptive and are usually filled with extensive use of flowery words, screenplays are more direct to the point and comparatively short. Also, the formatting for books can vary depending on the type of book and the author’s preferences, but screenplays generally have a standardized basic formula that must be followed.

Due to the seemingly tricky nature of screenwriting, some writers opt to outsource the adaptation of their books into screenplays. However, these writers sometimes end up hating the adaptation because they feel that a core part was changed or omitted entirely. A case in point is Stephen King, who is widely believed to have disliked most of the movie adaptations of his stories. For you to be fully satisfied with the adaptation of your book to a screenplay as a writer, you may be better off doing the adaptation yourself.
Even if you have no prior experience in screenplay writing, you can always learn; that’s what makes you a dynamic writer. The essential tips to help make your adaptation process a smooth one are outlined below:

1: Be self-critical of your book before the adaptation.

Not every book out there is destined to be made into a movie. The truth is that you might have an excellent book that is just not suited for the screen. Certain things determine if a book qualifies to be made into a screenplay or not. Consider the following.

The nature of the narrative (is the book action-packed, or is it filled with internal thoughts and lengthy dialogues?)
Do the characters have distinct attributes and goals?
Is there a clear conflict?
Are the stakes high enough?

These are the essential things that will tell you if your book can make a good screenplay. If any of those things are lacking, then you have to make up for them in your script.

2: Learn the screenwriting technique and note the difference from book writing.

You probably have primarily written books up until this point in your writing career, so screenwriting is more like uncharted waters. When you are confident that your book has all the elements that make a great movie (or you are willing to make up for the lack of such), then you should familiarize yourself with the technicalities of screenwriting. This entails learning both the actual screenwriting style alongside the formatting style. Some books can get you started on the intricacies, like Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and Screenplay by Syd Field. Some screenwriting soft wares can also aid you with the formatting like WriterDuet and Trebly, making the whole formatting process a hitch-free one. More so, you can source for professional screenplays of popular movies and read them to learn.

3: Be prepared to cut, cut, and cut!

Most of your favorite characters might have to go, that’s just the truth. Also, most of your favorite subplots might have to be done away with. There is no possible way you can fit in over six hundred pages of writing into a one hour, thirty minutes of screen time. You will need to learn the act of ruthless cutting, and the good thing is that you will be the one to determine the areas that need to be let go or modified.

To proceed, you need to first identify your key scenes, and make sure that they push your story forward. Any other narrative that does not support the general theme of the story should be cut. Also, characters that do not have any significant role to play can either be cut or combined into one.
Another thing you might need to cut or shorten is extensive and monotonous dialogues. Action drives movies, and too much long talks might end up making the screenplay boring (depending on the genre, anyway).

4: You should treat the adaptation as an entirely new project, different from the book.

Doing this will help in making the process of cutting or modifying plots and characters much easier for you. You should bear in mind that the full story already exists someplace else (in a book medium). Therefore, the movie doesn’t have to be a direct replica of the book.

When you carry out your adaptation with this mindset, then you will easily cut and modify characters, scenes, or even the story setting as you deem fit. The primary aim here is to tell a superb story that is fitting for the screen, knowing that it does not have the luxury of overly descriptive and fancy words.

With these four tips in mind, you should then proceed to write a treatment for your movie, and the script proper, following the standard screenwriting guidelines.

5: Listen to the opinion of others.

Seek out our professional coverage services or also ask a writer friends of yours who won’t be sentimental in their analysis to critique your script. The feedback you receive should contain constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement. With these suggestions, you can make sure you considered and improved more aspects you may have overlooked. After all, agents and movie producers won’t likely provide you this same input. Rather, they’ll simply delete your message or throw away your script if you didn’t bother to polish it before submitting. Learn from the coverage suggestions, make the necessary rewrites, and go at it again.

Whether you go on to write the adaptation yourself or not, you have added a new writing skill to your resume. The good thing about having a general idea of the screenwriting and adaptation processes is that it will give you a better understanding of why some elements of the story are cut or modified. Subsequently, if you are not the one making your adaptation, you will become more appreciative of the efforts of the screenwriter.

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