Why This Novelist Shifted His Focus to Screenwriting

I've been a multi-book novelist for some time now.  I love writing novels or I wouldn't have written six of them.  However, Saturday I went to a child's birthday party (her mom is a friend of my wife) and I met someone who works in the film industry and naturally the conversation gravitated to sharing stories.

I told this person that I was working on a novel and a screenplay at the same time and this person's response was "Why?".  After some real soul-searching these past few days I've decided that perhaps the medium I am writing is probably something I just did because I read a lot.  

But I also watch a lot.

And I've had film study courses as part of my major in college many years ago.

So I began to think that possibly I've been writing in the wrong medium all along. Of course one does not become a screenwriter overnight.  No screenplay we write tomorrow is guaranteed to become a film.  

3 reasons why I am pursuing screenwriting:

  1. I am a student of film - I don't write multi-genre (which is something you shouldn't do as a screenwriter) but I am a consumer of all things science fiction.  I don't just watch science fiction film and television.  I analyze it.  I do this easily and am never a casual viewer.  I understand what it takes to create a good story and I understand the process of film making, that the screenplay is a malleable thing that a director and producer are going to change somehow due to creative differences, budget constraints and location use.  
  2. I write like a filmmaker - One of the most common comments made about my novels is that they should be made into films.  I can't count the times I've been approached by a reader of mine who has tried to convince me to write a screenplay version of the plot.  I envision scenes for my novels in my head like they were being played out on television or on the big screen.  Sometimes the vision doesn't come out exactly as planned because I don't want to overwhelm the reader with needless Victorian description.  With a screenplay I can say little and mean a lot.
  3. It is a bigger medium - We can talk statistics all day about the decline of reading.  Look around you.  People don't read.  They read headlines without reading their attached articles.  This is true at least in the United States.  I blame our education system that focuses more on high stakes testing than making people read carefully for deeper meaning.  Often satire is lost on Americans.  However, the film industry is booming across the land.  My home state of Oklahoma is actually a hot-bed of independent filmmakers and artists.  

Steps I Am Taking:

  1. Getting Educated - Sure Scrivener has a great screenwriting program built in which adheres to industry standards of formatting, but I need some further education beyond those classes I took in college.  I have purchased Syd Fields's "Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting" on recommendation from my industry contact.  I will consume that book with a highlighter and pen handy to glean all the juicy information about building a winning screenplay.
  2. Use What I Have - I have 6 novels to choose from which are all great story ideas.  I will begin with my 2014 novel "Come Apart" because that novel is the most idyllic story to convert to a screenplay.  It is unique and interesting to the readers who have read it and it also would be the least expensive story to do on film because for a science fiction story it has the least amount of scenes which would require elaborate special effects to pull it off.
  3. Keeping In Contact - I was able to make contact with my industry person who is also working on their own products but knows people within the industry who could get me going.  Hopefully they can get my finished screenplay in front of a producer to get feedback and hopefully an option.  
  4. Working Locally - When I was at New World Comic Con selling my novels I met several local industry people who work with Dead Center Film Festival and other film makers who are always looking for that next project to do.  All of those projects begin with a good story.  I am blessed to live in a state with a budding film industry and hope to use this to my advantage.

I will be posting my progress on this new endeavor on this blog as I discover new ideas and new techniques for screenwriting.  Comment below with any thoughts or well-wishes.  Thank you for reading this, and if you want to get more of my articles please subscribe to the RSS feed.