Is novelization the future of screenplay writing?
With the success of film franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, it should come as no surprise that Hollywood loves to adapt best-selling novels, especially book series. Writers have taken notice and are beginning to change the way they approach the development of a story.
It’s called “novelization”. Many writers are now either taking old screenplays and adapting them into novels, or simply writing the novel first, in hopes that it can be adapted later into a film or TV show.
It’s certainly a burgeoning trend among writers. Script Magazine, ScreenCraft, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer Magazine have all run stories within the last nine months about this very topic. With all this buzz around novelization of screenplays, is it really worth it? Let’s look at the benefits.
Low-cost test run
By either getting a publisher or self-publishing, you get your story out there to see if it connects with audiences. If it doesn’t for some reason, you can perhaps go back to the drawing board and rework your idea.
Establishing an audience
If it does connect with audiences, you’re halfway there! You have proved there is a tangible audience that wants to see your story as a TV show or feature film. This will make pitching your idea to executives or financiers much easier, as they have more faith in the profitability of your idea.
The details are figured out
Along with a proven audience for your work, production companies and studios enjoy books because they go into so much more detail than a screenplay. This allows for more consensus on locations, sets, costumes, and the rest as the production moves forward.
So why aren’t more people trying this? Well, in Los Angeles there is a production company doing just that. Founded in 2016, Adaptive Studios built its business around purchasing abandoned intellectual property from studios and making them into novels, with the goal of then turning them back into movies. Its partners include major names like AMC, HBO, Netflix, Verizon, FX Networks, and Lionsgate. The company’s founders saw these neglected screenplays as a vast, untapped resource in an industry where stories are the currency and decided to do something about it. They were even featured in the New York Times in 2016.
But while there are certainly many potential benefits to turning your screenplay into a book, the pessimist in us must tell you that there are also drawbacks.
A waste of time
There is a high probability that even with your work published, you will not be able to get your story into the hands of executives. Will it strengthen your chances? The answer might be yes, but only if you really establish an audience and can prove their interest.
It weakens your story
Perhaps your idea was truly intended for the medium of film or television and not for long-form fiction. And now you have this book which isn’t very good and only dilutes your original idea, whereas your screenplay is a work of art. Now people may be turned off and not be willing to give your original script a look.
You should spend more time on your screenplay
After you spend months writing this book or you hired someone to adapt it for you, it may turn out that you should have been just working on your screenplay all along. All that time, effort, and money you invested in this book may actually have been better spent rewriting and revising your screenplay.
So there you have it. Now if you’re still onboard with this idea but just not sure where to start, there are plenty of resources. For starters, there is a book on Amazon called Novelizations – How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels written by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay. Another book is Turn Your Script into a Novel and Make Hollywood Come to You written by Richard Garrison.
Now stop wasting time here, pick up those dusty screenplays on your office shelves, and decide whether or not they have the potential to be best-selling books. Your stories deserve to be heard and this may be the way to do it!