Turning Your Book Into a Movie: Writing The Screenplay

GetPublished | Turning Your Book Into a Movie: Writing The Screenplay

In a previous blog, I wrote about adaptation-optioning, i.e., turning a book into a movie. That journey begins when a producer accepts an option for the rights to adapt a published work into a film. One of the first steps a producer takes is finding someone to write the book’s screenplay adaptation. 

Now as an author who has written a successful book, your first thought might be, “Why can’t I also write the screenplay?” That’s a good question, but you should know that writing a novel or biography is very different than writing a screenplay, and even the most successful authors rarely – if ever – write the screenplays for their novels. Instead, the producer will use a professional screenwriter to adapt it to the silver screen. For you, that could mean being locked out of the process and having to watch your work undergo a lot of changes for film. But if your adaptation-option contract specifies it – as do Stephen King’s contracts for his books – you could at least have input into the adaptation. 

One of the first things you should do when considering optioning your book for adaptation to film is be honest with yourself as to whether your book would actually make a good film. Specifically:

  • Is the story visual enough?
  • Does it have enough conflict?
  • Is it something people will pay their hard-earned money to see in a movie theater?
  • Are there enough ‘good’ scenes, e., that will capture and delight the audience? 

If you can answer “yes” to these, then proceed – but expect much change in how your story is told. Film and print are exceedingly different media!


The first change you can expect is: brevity. While a novel can be up to 500 pages long, a screenplay – which lists everything that happens in the film – won’t be longer than 125-150 pages. Films generally don’t have the luxury of extravagant story development that novels have. Settings, relationships, and plot-movement arise from dialog and interaction among the characters, rather than developing at length in narrative. Scenes and characters may be changed or cut for reasons from: time restraints, to budget, or even to availability of trending filming locations or certain actors’ schedules.

Hollywood Script Consultant Danny Manus notes that novels typically give potential book-buyers a brief synopsis on the book jacket or the back cover. Not so with screenplays. So, Manus says, it’s vital that the first ten pages of the screenplay grab the potential movie-production investor’s attention. “While the first page of a book is important, the first page of a screenplay is critical,” he says.[1]

So, assuming you’d like to tackle adapting your novel into a film screenplay, where do you start (minding what makes a successful production-investor pitch)? 

Manus suggests focus on things like the following:

  • The world and setting of the story.
  • The story’s five to eight primary characters including the protagonist and antagonist, their respective backstories – the who, why, and how of their coming together.
  • The five most important things for the audience to know about your main protagonist and antagonist.
  • The what, why, and how of the story’s primary core conflict.
  • The most visual and key scenes in the book that connect with how the conflict plays out.
  • Your 10–20 favorite dialogue lines – that drive the plot, are vital to the story or character development, and that stand out.
  • The story’s major overarching theme.[2]

You can learn the process by making outlines of movies – while you watch them! Just write a short one or two sentence summary of each scene as it happens and you’ll wind up with an outline of the entire plot. From these, you can “reverse-engineer” its acts, find its sequences, see its story-arc, and learn the concepts of screenplay structure. 

As I mentioned, writing a novel or biography is quite different from writing a screenplay. Even though you probably won’t be asked to write the screenplay for your book’s adaptation, knowing the process can help you give creative and positive feedback to its screenplay-writers … if yours is among the few chosen for adaptation. 

At GetPublished™ we specialize in helping you turn your idea or manuscript into a published book. We can then promote your finished book to those in the movie industry who might want to consider turning it into a film. Contact us today, and we’ll help you get the process started.

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If you have a story to tell, let GetPublished help you tell it!

GetPublished is an emerging powerhouse in book publishing. We’ve joined the two worlds of traditional and self-publishing into one company that can help do it all. Our capabilities and relationships allow us to create targeted and integrated book campaigns that mobilize high-profile contacts in your niche, capitalize on word-of-mouth marketing through social marketers, and extend your reach into the most prominent media publications. Our authors have the unparalleled service of an Executive Editor, one who will work with you in putting your story ideas into book form. Once that’s completed, our professional designers will work with you to design the cover and interior to make your book ready to sell.

GetPublished markets your book by distributing to every major book seller on three continents.

Author Michael Stickler Bio

About Michael Stickler

To set up an appointment to speak to a Literary Agent:
Email: Alfredo Baguio
Call: (702) 605-4354

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