If you had to write both, which one would you do first'¦?



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  • If you had to write both, which one would you do first'¦?

    The novel or the screenplay…assuming youâ€TMre capable but unknown?

    My main issue here has to do with preserving the big settings (futuristic world, spectacular structures, strange and diverse population, time travel, action requiring stunning special effects, etc.) and ambitious ideas originally envisioned…for the story to work full-blown.

    In novel format, you can write as big and far out as you want, even with omnipotent grandeur. Once published, interested studio executives will call the shots about how to make the movie. If they give you the option to write the script and the liberty to use your original big settings, then youâ€TMve killed two birds (novel and movie) with one stone! And more!

    In spec script format, you can only hope for a modest or down-to-earth version of your big story to ever interest a producer. And then, would it make any sense anymore to write that big novel? :eek

    0] :lol

  • #2
    Are you asking because you have more faith in yourself as a novelist?

    I come to this conclusion because it sounds like if you write the novel, you think it might lead to interest from studios to have it adapted into a screenplay.

    Whereas if you just write the script, you feel the inherent limitations of the format will work against you.

    That's what it sounds like.

    If your utlimate goal is to see it as a film, then I'd say don't mess around and get to work on the screenplay.

    In my opinion, speaking for myself, I think if the story is the same, the screenplay takes less time to write.


    • #3
      An interesting "what if" question here. Suppose an unknown writer named J.K. Rowling were to send in a spec script called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (I heard this was the original name for it). Let's say she did this instead of writing a novel about the story of a boy who goes to magic school.

      It garners interest in studios/producers, but they don't agree with a lot of the things in it, so they tell her to change some things (basically dumbing it down), and after a lot of changes, it turns out to be something entirely different from what she had originally planned. J.K Rowling, still unknown, doesn't have much say in why she made her world that way (and would this be true in a real world situation, or could the writer argue their case about why things are the way they are, and win). For simplicity's sake, lets say the movie gets greenlighted and then does poorly (because the changes made the script bad).

      Would something like this likely happen if J.K Rowling sent in a script about this world? Or what if she publishes a novel first (and it does tremendously well), then writes the screenplay, would that give her more "leverage" in keeping her world in the script roughly the same as in the novel (obviously you can't have everything from the novel in the movie)? While I understand sometimes changes have to be done, would writing the novel give the writer a stronger case on why the script was written a certain way (esp if it's well written in both novel and screenwriting format)?

      Or are the producers/execs/actors/director going to change the world anyway, and make it in such a way that it resembles nothing like the book (there are many cases of this happening, but in Harry Potter's case, the films remained somewhat truthful to the books and the "world" J.K Rowling established).


      • #4
        I've had a novel on the burner for a while now. It's fantasy based, many locations, sfx, the works. No way in hell I'd write it as a screenplay first. It all wouldn't fit.

        Then I have my little romcom I'm working on as a screenplay. It works as a movie right off. It's simple. I think it might have like three locations. The cast isn't "ginormous". It doesn't have a hodge podge of subplots that I have to keep straight with index cards like my novel.

        The format has to fit the story you are writing. If you can do the story justice as a screenplay, then do it. It is way shorter and, hopefully, less time. I wrote my first script in a couple of months, but my novel has been in the works for a few years, and I'm only on chapter 8.

        So, how much time do you want to devote to a single project? And will the final product be what you meant it to be?


        • #5
          Or what if she publishes a novel first (and it does tremendously well), then writes the screenplay,
          "...and it does tremendously well..."

          Tremendously being an understatement in this case. It was something like an unprecedented phenomenon. It broke records left and right as a book series.


          • #6
            If you write a novel that is published and a hit then you have total control over the movie rights (unless you signed these away in some weird publishing contract). You do not have to agree to anything the studio want, you can have script approval, director approval, cast approval, anything.

            Of course, the book has to have been a massive hit before the studios will even think about agreeing to these!

            But if creative control means that much to you then you could, if you wanted, simply refuse to sign any studio deal that didn't meet your needs. It may mean waiting a few years before you find such a deal, it may mean getting less money, it may mean your movie is never made.

            Or, if your book is a hit and has earned you some serious cash then finance the movie yourself, or at least a big part of it, though if it's a script that needs a $200 million special effects budget that could be a problem. Even JK Rowling might hesitate before signing THAT cheque!


            • #7
              The chances for a breakout novel are extremely slim. Far more titles are published in a year than films are released, and most of these titles have minimal advertising budgets. Many won't even get reviewed. So banking on your book being the next big thing and then selling to the movies is like expecting George Bush to sit down and write a collection of sonnets--it's not going to happen.

              As for toggling between novels and scripts (I write as one who's done both), it becomes instantly obvious to me whether an idea requires the texture of fiction to make it a 100,000-word compelling read, or the terseness of a solid 114-page screenplay.

              Time is another issue. A novel usually takes a year or two (sometimes more) to write and rewrite. When you're dealing with 350 pages, the rewriting is slowly and methodical. A screenplay, if you're any good, can take anywhere from a month to six months (again, possibly more) to bring to the level where you feel it's ready to be read.

              Neither is easy.

              To answer the original question--which would I do first--there's no choice. Either a subject leaps out at me as the grist for a novel or it's so visual and so paced that it begins and ends as a screenplay. If you've worked in both forms for some time, it becomes obvious very quickly how you're going to write it.


              • #8
                I'm in a similar situation, Peak. Do I write the novel first then the screenplay or vise versa?

                Writing the novel first allows you to put everything in there you want.

                Writing the screenplay is harder now, what scenes will make a good 2hr movie?

                Writing both would give you a little edge only because you wrote the novel and then adapted the novel for the screen. Print on Demand is slowly coming into it's own, granted if you looking at getting published by Random House than POD is just a POS.

                In the end, writing the novel gives your outline/synopsis for the screenplay.


                • #9
                  I realize that since this is a board for mostly amateurs, the questions lean towards the wildly hypothetical, but still, the assumption that one could bounce back and forth between author and screenwriter is more wild than most.

                  Narrative fiction and screenwriting are different disiplines, and the odds of breaking through in either one alone are astronomical. It is 'harder' to write a novel than a screenplay. Then again, it's easier to get published than it is to get produced. Then again, it's harder to sell a book than a movie. Then again...

                  Figure out what you're good at and stick with it.

                  JK Rowling is not a good example. Neither is G.P. Taylor, who recently sold film rights to his first nine novels, including $12 million for the first two.

                  Caleb Carr and Michael Chabon have fame, money and a Pulitzer between them, and yet they're in the same boat as us when it comes to Hollywood.


                  • #10
                    I was once handed a Caleb Carr rewrite as a possible rewrite assignment, and was amazed at how poorly he had reimagined, rewritten and polished the material that had been given him. Novelists don't always make the best screenwriters, and vice-versa.

                    To reiterate what has already been stated here: writing fiction and writing screenplays are two very different disciplines. Even after many years of writing both, I find shifting back and forth between them extremely difficult.


                    • #11
                      There's something odd about the premise here. "If you HAD to write both. . ." My guess is, if you wrote one you wouldn't want to write the other.

                      I don't think you can have the exact same story in a novel and a screenplay. You make thousands of decisions when you write a story. Seems to me the first decision is, which format fits the story best?


                      • #12
                        I say write it as a graphic novel. Graphic novels are allthe rage. Execs love graphic novels. There are few words and many pretty pictures.


                        • #13
                          Just a few more interesting (to me) thoughts on author/screenwriters.

                          And the fact that these writers are well known is evidence of their rarity, so you shouldn't be encouraged.

                          I cannot think of another writer other than William Goldman who excells at both crafts, although at different points in his career.

                          Some writers, like Thomas Harris, write cinematic novels that almost demand to be filmed (Silence Of The Lambs is the closet thing to a word for word adaptation that I have ever seen). Yet he has never been bitten by the screenwriting bug*. This is testamony to sticking with what your good at.
                          (I would also put Nick Hornby into this group).

                          Some popular writers, encouraged by their clout, attempt both crafts, with poor results. Do I need to mention Maximum Overdrive?

                          Recently, there have been a few first time novelists, who not only manage to get their first novel's film rights sold, but are allowed to do the adaptations themselves. Peter Hedges did it with Whats Eating Gilbert Grape, and Scott Smith did it with the (Oscar nominated) screenplay for A Simple Plan.

                          Both of them have made the transition to full-time screenwriters. Who can resist the glamour of Hollywood?

                          *Thomas Harris is currently writing the screenplay for the Hannibal Lector prequel, but I'm sure that has much more to do with $$$$ than any other motivation.


                          • #14
                            Awesome replies! Thanks so much!

                            Not that you have moved the needle one inch in any direction…in the end. Iâ€TMm as perplexed and undecided now as I was before.

                            Personally I would write the novel first…but I have already challenged myself to do the screenplay since I live near Hollywood and my daughter is a rising teen actress (she could play, if cast, that intriguing role I had in mind…) with a top talent/literary agency. That could interest me too…later on.

                            To be fair, Iâ€TMm an inexperienced, untested screenwriter…aspiring to finish the second and third acts (first draft) of my ambitious first script…based on tons of poorly organized notes I wrote over the past two years. Meaning really nothing. On the other hand, I have already established a certain fan-base as a published novelist and short story writer.

                            Well…more things to think about…



                            • #15
                              Re : "Caleb Carr and Michael Chabon have fame, money and a Pulitzer between them, and yet they're in the same boat as us when it comes to Hollywood. "

                              Michael Chabon had a "story by" credit on Spiderman 2, no?

                              That is not the boat I'm in. Would be very happy to be tossed a life jacket or little ringy thing and be pulled into that boat!