From Novel to Screenplay

on February 3, 2013 in Misc

A friend is turning one of my manuscripts into a screenplay.

In all honesty, I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand I’m really honored and flattered and happy.  I mean, someone thinks that something I’ve written is so good she’s taking on the fiendishly hard job of transferring my story into a different medium.  That’s true validation for me.

On the other hand, I feel guilty.  Here she is, a young gifted actress trying to make it in New York, working a full-time job and spending her free time making the rounds to auditions, and she’s going to spend countless more hours constructing a screenplay based on my novel.  Even if she writes an Oscar-worthy one, that doesn’t mean it will get her anywhere because Hollywood is notoriously tough to break into.  Good writers and great talent are ignored, churned up, spat out, sucked dry.  Only a handful will make it.

My sister has a friend who’s an Emmy-winning writer and he has a few horror stories about the business.  He retired early and moved to Santa Fe.  I think Disney tried to tempt him back with a lucrative contract to write some Nickleodeon series for someone like Miley Cyrus.  I guess he’d rather shoot himself.

So should I tell my young friend “Don’t do it!”?

On the other hand, a whole lotta actors only made it when they wrote a screenplay the studios wanted.  Think Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), Chazz Palminteri (A Bronx Tale), Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting). There have been so many actors whose careers had stalled until they wrote a breakthrough screenplay.  But they would only sell it when legally promised the lead role.

For my friend’s sake, I really, truly hopes this will happen to her.

The good news is she’s smart, talented, and has already done a theater workshop reading from my novel.  I guess the reaction of her friends/ audience was strongly favorable.  So a screenplay might make sense.  On the other hand… I just feel guilty.  If her screenplay goes nowhere, it will ultimately be my fault because the story and characters are mine.

I wish her all the luck in the world. And at her request, I’m sending her notes and my synopsis.  Maybe, in the end, I’ll be cheering her on at the Oscars.

Have any of you had literary dalliances with the big or little screen?  Ever been tempted to write a screenplay of your novel?  Ever wondered if suicide would hurt less?

10 Responses to “From Novel to Screenplay”

  1. If she wants to write it, let her!
    I couldn’t write a screenplay, but would be cool if someone else wrote ones for my books.

  2. Helena says:

    Alex – I’m definitely letting her, but I feel partly responsible for her ultimate success.

  3. A screenplay won’t require countless hours. Sure it will require some but it will at most only be 120 pages and include words like (woman walks in from left of stage) or whatever. The rule of thumb is one page equals one minute.

    Whereas this is a beginning screenplay, it will be shorter than 120 minutes for sure so maybe 90 will be more appropriate (and that’s double-spaced).

    I would be concerned that your work is going to get completely gutted. Think about condensing “The Compass Master” to 90 pages that are double spaced and including non-dialogue scene setters. Yeah.

  4. Helena says:

    Michael – Boil The Compass Master down to 90 pages? Ouch! That really does hurt. I know when I saw The Hunger Games I was disappointed in the way some scenes and details in the book were left out. Maybe the limitations of movies is why series on TV are so popular, like Homeland and Game of Thrones. The story, the characters, and the themes can really take their time and be thoroughly developed. Novelists and writers connected to those shows must love that luxury.

  5. I can honestly say I’ve never been tempted to write a screenplay at all. Should be an interesting process.

  6. Helena says:

    Carol – I tried writing a couple years ago. They’re very different from novels, which I much prefer.

  7. Ciara Knight says:

    I’d looked into this but tabled it for a bit. If she is a friend, make sure you have a contract stipulating all world rights and characters are your property. Don’t mix business and friends without a contract IMHO

  8. Helena says:

    Ciara – You are so much smarter than I am. I’ll check around for some kind of agreement that I can use.

  9. Old Kitty says:

    Lovely Helena!! A screenplay of your ms!! That’s brilliant! Awww I DO feel for your actress friend but secretly I’m thinking please please work on Helena’s ms and make it a super duper screenplay and tout it to the big studios (or fab indie ones) and make it work!!!!! Yay!! take care

  10. Helena says:

    Old Kitty — How sweet of you! But in reality this actress has NO Hollywood connections, or even any independent film connections. But I still wish her the best.