A Novelist Learns How to Write a Screenplay

The world of writing is vast and full of many different mediums. I have placed myself in the part of that world for novelists and blog post writers. But I often wonder what it’s like for the other worlds of writers. After all, even if the process is similar, the product is so different. In my quest to learn more about writing, I wanted to visit a new section of the writing world: screenplays.

To assist me in my quest to learn more about screenplay writing, I referenced Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. He takes interested scriptwriters through the process of writing, pitching, and more. I’ve read Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody, which used Synder’s book as inspiration. I decided to use these two books to compare the processes for writing a novel, and writing a screenplay.

When reading these two books, I discovered that the writing process is very similar. Not a huge surprise, but interesting when you consider one is more of a visual medium. It’s also the case when you consider that Brody’s process took inspiration from Snyder’s book. There are similar genres with the same beats when you are plotting them on your cards and storyboard. The story structure is also very similar, with the classic three acts like the hero’s journey. Dialogue for both types of writing is very important and vital, but “show don’t tell” is still king. 

It was interesting to me that one of the big differences in these processes is the prep and pitch work. When prepping for a screenplay, you focus on a one-sentence pitch to get the story across, aka the logline. It has to get the point across, and tell executives the target audience and how much it’ll cost. Also, you have to be able to picture the movie poster from your logline. A very hefty sentence! In novel writing, you have a bit more wiggle room, and you don’t have to worry about cost and target audience as much. Snyder says that you have to test your logline out in the real world to see if it fits. Instead of passing it along to your peers like you might do for your novel, you pitch it to anyone. Strangers in line with you at a coffee shop? Check. Your neighbor who you see when you take out the trash every morning? Also yes. It’s a more extroverted approach to testing the waters, and it makes more sense. In screenplays, the target audience aims to be as mass-market as possible. This makes it simpler to sell to executives and audiences. So testing it out with a bunch of different people is a great way to see if it falls into that realm. 

The pitch work has some overlap. You sometimes need an agent, but who you know can be the most important thing. What interests me is how creative you can get with the pitches. Sure, you can get creative with novel pitches, but not like the examples Synder lists. Synder and his writing partner sold a movie with a unique approach. They sent kids to executive’s with backpacks full of fake money and the pitch to help visualize the story. He mentions many other examples of how writers get executives in the mood to hear their story. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s still a fun and interesting approach to marketing. As someone who works in advertising, these out-of-the-box ideas are exciting. 

Did reading this book give me hope that someday I could write a screenplay? A bit. I still have a lot to learn before I can cross that off my bucket list. Have you ever written a screenplay? How was the process different from novel writing in your eyes? If you haven’t, what kind of screenplay would you like to write? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!

2 comments

  1. Ella · July 21

    I love the ideas of screenplays!! I havent tried writing one but I’d love to convert one of my novel ideas into a screenplay. Good luck with your writing!

    Like

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