How to Write a Script from a Novel

You may have found success as a novelist. The next thing you might want to do is adapt it into a screenplay. However, if you have never written a screenplay before you might not know how to proceed. Look at the tips given below on how to adapt your novel into a script.

Step 1

Read books on how to write a screenplay

You will find umpteen books on the subject of writing screenplays online. Going through these books will give you an insight into the plot, the dialogue and the structure of the story. Remember, what you are reading is not meant for the pages of a book but screening in theatres. 

Step 2

Read how-to books

Writing a novel is very different from writing a screenplay; not only in its technique but also in its approach.  So if you have a background in writing fiction, gathering information on how to write a screenplay is a good idea.

You can do this by reading a few 'how-to-write a screenplay' books. Before you start writing, make sure you read at least a dozen books. Select books that are light, with a clear and concise explanation. You can try the free download sites like Drew' Script O Rama or Simply Scripts. Once you have downloaded some scripts you are good to go. 

Step 3

Write the outline of your novel

Once you have gone through a few screenplays, you can commence writing your outline. Once you have written it down, read it and imagine the sequence of events playing on the screen. Make a summary of each chapter methodically. 

You can do this by writing down the main actions in each scene. Note down the essentials only. Mention the event and how the story is moving forward. Two sentences per scene should do it.

For example, imagine that there is a scene where the main character knows that the bomb will explode in an hour. Or a scene where the character runs out of a party and finds out that someone is following her. This is the kind of twist that moves the story forward.  You need to note down the stuff that will be visible on the screen. You can safely eliminate monologues, descriptions, and theories. These are things that can't be shown on screen.

Step 4

Finalizing the outline

Before starting on their script, some screenwriters write synopses or outlines. Others don't bother. But formulating a document to follow when you are writing the screenplay will help you a lot. When you finalize the outline, decide on the things you want to keep and the things that you want to discard. You may find that you need to write some new material.

There are anywhere between 200 to 800 pages in a novel. This means that when you adapt the book to a script, you will have to go through the exercise of editing. You will have to cut out some characters, alter the plot lines and eliminate the scenes that are not relevant. 

Step 5

Writing the screenplay

After your outline is finalized, you can begin the actual writing of your screenplay. You can buy some professional screenwriting software for this purpose. There are free alternatives also available if you have a tight budget.

Once you become familiar with the software, you will understand that screenwriting is confined to three basic elements. One is the description, then the dialogue and lastly the technical formatting. To be successful, you will have to keep the scenes short. If you have typed a page in your script, it equals to around a minute of screen time. You can use around one to two pages for most scenes. Make certain that your scenes are tight. 

Step 6

Get feedback

As you keep writing, you will get the hang of how scriptwriting works. As you go along, don't forget to get script coverage on your work. The best people to go to for advice on your script are professional scriptwriters, managers, and producers. It may not be easy to get in touch with these people, so if you get the chance, don't let it go.

If you are not able to get professional help, there are many sites online that are more than willing to help you. Once you have completed your project, step back and let the script 'rest.' Let the plot sink. Don't be tempted to look at the script. Make notes if needed. Think over the script for a while. Return to it after a couple of weeks and do changes if needed. 

By now, you will have a fair idea about how to go about adapting your novel into a script. All that is left to grab a cup of piping hot coffee and settle down in front of your laptop.

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