· When writing a novel, prose and dialog are organized by paragraph, while in screenplays they are divided into dialog, character direction, and visible description and action.
· Novel prose allows for internal dialog and stream of consciousness, while all thoughts and character motivations in a screenplay need to be “shown” through the camera’s audio and visible sensors. One loophole to this is an intermittent use of “voice-over” in a script, in which an unseen narrator speaks over a scene.
· Novels are generally written in third person, past tense, while screenplays are always written in present tense.
· Novels are usually around 300 pages, while the typical “spec” script is around 120 pages.
· Novels are typically written in Times New Roman, while screenplays are always written in Courier or Courier New. Both have specific formatting guidelines.
Upon review of my writing portfolio, one will see that I have written as many screenplays as I have novels—and that more than half of my screenplays are adaptations (most of them being adaptations of my own novels, with one being a hired adaptation of a novelette written by another author). Writing adaptations is just as much of an art as is writing original novels and screenplays; in converting a story from one format to the other, a writer must take into consideration time constraints, the translation compatibility of certain events, budget, and audience. For example:
· When converting a novel into a screenplay, one must decide which scenes to cut and mesh, and also if that cutting and meshing will require some reorganization of the storyline. When converting a screenplay into a novel or novelette, one must add internal dialog or narration, as well as scenes that may have been missing in the script due to time constraints.
· What works great as prose does not always translate well on screen, and vice-versa. Sometimes a writer must find an alternate literary or visual device in order to make the same point work in translation.
· What might be easy to write might take money to reproduce on-screen. A screen adaptation must always be written with budget in mind, while the sky is the limit when writing novels and similar prose.
· When adapting prose to screenplay, especially in previously published works, a writer must be careful to cater to any preexisting audience that might have certain expectations about the work.
I believe that it is a great asset for a writer to be well versed in both formats. It is my opinion that an author the best-suited candidate to adapt his or her work into screenplay form, given that the person understands how to use the screenplay format. No one will know the ins and outs of a work better than the person who originally wrote it, and no one will be able to capture the essence and soul of a work any clearer. While there are many great adaptations that have been written by hired screenwriters, few people will argue that most of these adaptations do not capture that which made their predecessors all that they are. While that which is lacking in many is due to necessary cuts and changes needed to make the story translate better, what most are lacking, in my opinion, is their original writers.
Would I consider giving up writing novels in order to be a successful screenwriter? Never. I love writing both too much to choose one format over the other. God willing, there is enough room for my writing in both industries.