When we write a novel, we focus on the images in our head. Then, when our readers enjoy the story, a version of those images is recreated in their minds. Rarely do we think about literally getting them out. On a screen, big or small. Because we write books, not screenplays.
Perhaps we should re-consider this.
Just spend a few minutes on Amazon, and you’ll see how over the past decade, the number of novels published has skyrocketed. As you know, ‘published’ doesn’t necessarily mean … sold.
It gets harder every day to stand out from the crowd, and to be heard above the noise of tens of thousands of other authors.
If you look at the few novels that strike it big, you may notice a pattern. Of course, certain genres fare better than others. I’m rather talking about the ones that go really, really big. From James Bond, to Harry Potter; from The Hunger Games to The Martian.
They are often structured like a cinematic feature, ready to be adapted.
I want you to consider writing your next novel with this in mind. Why?
Here are seven good reasons.
1. Publishers will love your novel (and you).
These days, publishers are after books from authors that have already proven themselves — or after stories they believe have a life beyond the book. Preferably a big-ticket life at the movies.
2. It only takes one novel to seal your career.
Tess Gerritsen wrote a book called “Gravity”, which was optioned by a film studio. You may be surprised to learn that they never filmed it. The blockbuster you know, was an original screenplay. Tess still received a handsome million dollars for the book rights, although they were never used.
3. Cinematic concepts are easier to write.
Once you have a clear, cinematic concept, writing the screenplay is simpler than writing any other novel, because literary style is of lesser importance. You need to build tension, create and resolve conflict. It is easier to write an English-language screenplay as a non-native English speaker, than to have a novel success. Yet the rewards may be many times bigger.
4. Techniques of character and structure can be learned.
Sure, you can learn how to write well. But the greatest novels carry the style idiosyncrasies of their authors. This is not something that is easily acquired. Writing stories that fit the screen – much like film adaptation – can be learned.
5. They will ask you for a sequel.
You would love a career, earning an income from your writing, right? Novels typically only drip-feed money to their authors, while money from the movies can be more significant. Hollywood prefers investing in stories that have sequel potential in the first place. Is your novel part of a series?
6. You will become a better author.
Unless you already have a style and an audience who reads your novels specifically for that style, here is a massive opportunity. Writing with film in mind will teach you to focus more on story, which is what attracts most mainstream readers.
And even better …
7. … You will be famous.
Did you watch the Oscars®? Each year, the writers of ten nominated screenplays find themselves in the spotlights. How often do authors walk the red carpet for such celebrity-fueled events?
No need to start reading, let alone writing screenplays. In fact, this would be distracting. A good start would be to watch as many successful films as you can fit in, and practise summarising their story in a one-page synopsis. This will give you a feel for structure.
You will soon find the parameters that make for a well-told screen story.
Welcome to Hollywood!