Novelizations: How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels (Sample Chapter)

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Interested in learning about how to adapt a screenplay into a novel?

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Here is the first chapter of the new “How To” book by Rene Gutteridge & Cheryl McKay: Novelizations: How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels (A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors)

Chapter 1

Cheryl McKay (aka The Screenwriter)


What is a Novelization?

There is a new trend percolating in the writing industry with novelizations. I’m not talking about serials that show up on bookshelves to match every episode of your favorite TV crime drama or the book spin-offs depicting your child’s favorite TV or movie characters. Rather, there is a different trend that began in the endlessly imaginative world of Hollywood around 2008.

Most writers are familiar with the custom of taking a book and adapting it for the silver screen. That’s been around since Oliver Twist, Ben Hur, and Rip Van Winkle’s clever arrivals. But what is this reversal? Can we take screenplays—even before they are filmed—and turn them into novels? Can these novels have a life of their own, independent of a film or television release?

The novelization process, as its own piece of artistry, is a whole different form of writing; it’s literally the opposite of book-to-screen adaptations and it’s gaining popularity. This topic that—just a few years ago, you’d never heard of—is suddenly on the roster of classes at screenwriting, film, and fiction writing conferences. Rene and I have even had the chance to teach some of those.

We find this new trend exciting. Perhaps it’s because we had the privilege of getting involved on the front end of its newfound popularity before we had even heard of it.

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Our Story

Our journey began in 2007. We met after Rene wrote the novelized version of my screenplay for The Ultimate Gift after it had been made into a feature film. What was unusual about that was the screenplay was already based on a book, penned by Jim Stovall. However, the producers and the publisher thought there would be value in releasing a second novel that closely matched the feature film. Rather than just rereleasing the original novel with the movie poster on the front, Thomas Nelson Publishers hired Rene to novelize my screenplay and then they published it in time for the feature film’s release.

This creative process gave us a fresh idea. What if we could get publishers to commission novels based on screenplays, even if those screenplays hadn’t yet been made into films?

If you are a screenwriter, can you imagine not having to wait for your movie to get cast, filmed, posted, and distributed to the nearest theater or Redbox to find an audience? Wouldn’t you love to start building an audience sooner?

Now you can, with what we are going to teach you through this book.

When Rene read my script Never the Bride, she knew she wanted my quirky rom-com to be the first story we worked on together. Our dream came true! In early 2008, when this new trend was barely even a concept, Random House contracted us for the novelization of Never the Bride.

Thus began the journey that has continued since that day. Collectively, we have seven of these in publication or soon-to-be released, and we plan to do more. We have learned so much about the script-to-novel writing process. We now want to share that with you. It is a different art form altogether from adapting books into scripts or writing novels from scratch.

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Why Novelizations?

You may be wondering what the motive is for a screenwriter or a novelist to get involved in this process. For those writers who can do both forms of writing—why would you want to pen two projects based on the same material?

Well, it’s simple.

The film industry is risk-adverse. Check out the slate of films releasing on any given Friday. You will notice most of these projects are based on something preexisting: a novel, a nonfiction book, a comic book, a character, a true story, a historical event, a sequel, prequel or spin-off of a prior film or TV series, a remake of a prior film. (Did you know Les Miserables has been adapted into film over ten times?) Hollywood loves to know they have a built-in audience with whom to start. Otherwise, they are too afraid no one will shell out the big bucks to fill their stadium-style theater seats.

Yet screenwriters have good ideas for stories too, right? New, fresh, original. Naturally, not all screenwriters are novelists, just like most novelists wouldn’t know how to adapt their books into screenplays. (The writing rules couldn’t be more opposite!) In recent years, if executives came across a project they liked but they wanted to see if there was an audience for it, they might suggest the screenwriter get their project novelized and published first.

Besides having your story published, the benefit for the screenwriter is to be able to take meetings with studios, TV networks, and producers, and talk about how her story sold first as a novel. This gives the impression that someone else considered that story worth buying. It will give that screenwriter a leg up on other scripts in the slush pile that have no track record.

There have also been success stories in the independent publishing realm if a screenwriter released a novelization on her own and it gained a big audience. Studio executives pay attention to ebook sales, whether books are traditionally published or not, especially if there’s a large following made obvious by chatty readers in book forums. (According to an executive at a conference speaking on novelizations, it may only take the sale of 10,000 copies of an independently published novel to capture the eye of a studio.)

For novelists, this is a worthy world to dive into as well. They may find ideas they can be passionate about that will take half the work of an original novel. They have a better chance of their novelizations landing on the big screen. They have a shot at better sales if any of those novels are made into films and the novelizations rerelease with the movie posters on the front. All of this helps novelists become more visible in the film industry; it may call the attention of studios, networks, and producers to their other books.  Can you say win-win?

For novelists and screenwriters, for producers and publishers, there is no downside to playing in this creative world. (So, why didn’t we think of this sooner?)

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What You Will Learn in This Book

There are many questions surrounding this creative arena that we will discuss in this book. For example, how does a novelist know which stories to take on and which projects to avoid? Why is it important to not change everything the screenwriter wrote? And yet, how flexible does the screenwriter need to be when watching someone else adapt (read: change) his words?

Screenwriters, we will help you understand why the novelist will have to make some changes to your beloved, original story, its structure, its dialogue, and other areas in the translation to book form. We will also share some tips on how to make sure you are working with a team that actually wants to adapt your story.

There are patterns we have picked up on that have become helpful to recognize as we approach each novelization. Some key questions we will answer are:

• What are the challenges of novelizations?

• What makes it easier to write these books over novels written from scratch?

• What’s important to keep, to expand, or throw away from the original script’s story?

• If the screenwriter is not writing the novelization, how involved should that screenwriter be with the novelist?

• What’s the best way to form a partnership between screenwriters and novelists?

• What changes should screenwriters be flexible on and what should they fight for?

We will answer these and many other questions throughout this book.

And here’s the cool part. Since collectively, we have done this on seven projects so far, we have specific examples from our own published work, plus a few works-in-progress. You will get the chance to compare side-by-side script pages to the novelization pages that followed. We will explain our whole process: why certain parts of the novel are faithful to the script and why other parts veer off in different directions. We will show you how each writing arena follows different rules and how to use the tools unique to novelists in the novelization process.

For those screenwriters who are also aspiring novelists, there is so much you must learn to do your own adaptations. It’s like having to rewire your brain to think the exact opposite to how it functioned when you penned your screenplay. We will also give you short exercises in select chapters to put what you’re learning into practice.

We will cover such topics as setting, length, point of view, backstory, interior monologue, and the translation of dialogue, character, and structure from script-to-book.

And just a quick word about the format of this book. It’s not that we love seeing our names and titles in print. Since this book is co-written by a screenwriter and a novelist, we will label each section for you, so you know who is speaking. This way you’ll know if you are being given advice from the screenwriter’s POV or the novelist’s POV, or which one of us is doing the comparison from script to novel. Just because we don’t want to be completely annoying with agreement problems by always having to qualify a writer in the singular as a “he or she,” we will often refer to one as a “she.” We mean no disrespect to the wonderful male authors and screenwriters out there. (Rock on, Bill Myers, James Scott Bell, Tom Clancy, Nicholas Sparks!)

Are you ready to dive in with us, into this new, exciting, creative world?

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(Want to know more? To get a copy of the whole book, visit the links below: )


Novelizations – How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels: A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors (Paperback)

Novelizations – How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels: A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors (Kindle Version)

 

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Ever thought about adapting a script into a novel?

100_3901Cheryl & Rene, 2009

Since 2007, I’ve been involved in a new trend that takes scripts and turns them into books. Yes, this is the opposite of normal. Many people have asked me how to do it. There are definitely specific writing techniques to this art form that you won’t find in a book on adaptation. In fact, those “How To” books are teaching the opposite rules than it takes to go from script to book.

Rene Gutteridge and I have taught classes in this writing technique for novelizations and decided to share what we’ve learned through this book.

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Novelizations: How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels

(A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors)

We took 10+ examples from our script to book novelizations, some published, some works-in-progress, to help illustrate how you turn a screenplay into a novel. As a screenwriter, it’s been amazing to see my characters come to life in book form. Having a screenplay come out as a book makes it a lot easier to gain attention for your scripts.

This book is for screenwriters who want to do their own adaptations as well as novelists who want to understand this unique writing format and how both types of writers can get involved in them.

Rene and I first met after Rene was hired to novelize my screenplay from the film, The Ultimate Gift.

TUG poster

Our first novelization that we collaborated on was Never the Bride, based on my screenplay:

Never the Bride

And then our follow up was Greetings from the Flipside, also based on one of my scripts:

Greeting Cover

To order on Amazon CLICK on the Title for Paperback or Kindle:


Novelizations – How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels: A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors (Paperback)

Novelizations – How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels: A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors (Kindle Version)

Here is a description of what you’ll learn from the book:

NOVELIZATIONS: HOW TO ADAPT SCRIPTS INTO NOVELS

A WRITING GUIDE FOR SCREENWRITERS AND AUTHORS

Are you an author who wants to explore the business of adapting screenplays into novels?

Are you a screenwriter who’d like to see your unproduced script written as a novel, to help get your film made?

Are you a screenwriter who wants to adapt your own script into a novel?

This book is for you.

Novelizations used to pump business for existing movies and TV shows, but now a fast-growing trend has publishers contracting authors to pen novel adaptations based on scripts that haven’t been produced—yet. At least until the novel raises awareness about the script and gives it a life of its own. It’s a win-win for all creative writers.

If you are a novelist, you can benefit from learning the craft of adapting scripts into books. You may just end up penning a novelization that will one day be a film. There is an art to this form of adaptation that may differ from starting a novel from scratch.

If you’re a screenwriter who is sitting on a gem of a script, what are you waiting for? We’ll give you tips on how to team up with a novelist. Or you, too, can learn to adapt your screenplay as a novel. Just like screenwriting, there’s a craft to be honed. With the whole story and characters of that script already in place, you’re half way there.

Want to learn the trade secrets of this burgeoning business? Look no further. Using specific, side-by-side examples that compare script pages to novel pages, writing team Cheryl McKay (the screenwriter) and Rene Gutteridge (the novelist) share their experiences, tips, and know-how on adapting scripts into novels. Covering everything from creative technique to collaborative contracts, Novelizations: How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels is an invaluable tool for both screenwriters and novelists to successfully master this highly specialized art form.

RENE GUTTERIDGE is the one of the go-to authors for novelizations. She has written Old Fashioned, Heart of the Country, and Just 18 Summers for Tyndale. CHERYL MCKAY, screenwriter of The Ultimate Gift (which Gutteridge also novelized), has worked with Gutteridge on the novelizations for her scripts, Never the Bride for Random House and Greetings from the Flipside for B&H Publishing. They won a Carol Award (ACFW) for Best Women’s Fiction for Never the Bride.

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Soul Inspirationz

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For the month of January, the website called Soul Inspirationz, which celebrates Christian authors and fiction, has decided to feature Rene Gutteridge and me as featured authors.

If you’d like to read more about our writing careers and lives, visit the following links:

Featured Author–Rene Gutteridge

Featured Author–Screenwriter/Novelist Cheryl McKay

Greetings from the Flipside

Greeting Cover

SYNOPSIS

Hope Landon has been rewriting other people’s greeting cards since she was six years old — there’s always a funnier caption. She’s all set to chase those creative dreams with her musician fiance in New York City until he leaves Hope at the altar, deciding he must not really love this girl if he can’t write a song for her. That may give her something to write about.

Hope disappears alone on what was supposed to be the couple’s month-long honeymoon. Upon returning she learns of her funeral — everyone in her life concluded Hope must have killed herself after being jilted. Needing a fresh start more than ever, she heads for the Big Apple only to discover it’s not that easy to rent a place when you’ve been declared dead.

Taking shelter at the YMCA, Hope soon lands a job at a Christian inspirational greeting card company as an assistant to Jake, a guy who shut down his organization’s humor department. She has lost her faith in love; he needs to find something or someone that will make him laugh again.

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Greetings from the Flipside will stretch your imagination and lead you on a journey with our lead character, Hope Landon, much like It’s a Wonderful Life did many years ago with George Bailey. As you step into Hope’s shoes, perhaps you’ll laugh, cry, and find hope with her to live a full life and chase after your set-aside dreams–and if you’re looking for it, maybe find true love. For anyone who’s read our prior work, Never the Bride, you know we like to think outside-the-box with our romantic comedies. Are you ready to suspend your disbelief and journey with us to the Flipside?

THE THEMES

If I were to sum up what this book means to me, at its heart, it’s about having hope in the midst of trials and to believe that life will get better again. It’s about how God can “Romans 8:28” anything in your life. (Yes–that’s a verb now!) He’s able to take those bad circumstances and turn them around for your good. What I love about Hope Landon’s character is she is a fighter, no matter how many bad things happen to her. But she’s honest about it; she doesn’t sugar coat pain.

Have you ever gone through something emotionally painful and had someone pat you on the knee and say in that empty way, “Things will get better”? They think they are being comforting while your temptation may be to strangle them. Hope Landon likes to keep it real. But the irony is… she’s a little challenged to know what’s real and what isn’t in her world. Sometimes her life feels like a bad dream. Yet even bad dreams have a way of waking us up to what truly matters in life. Sometimes, they’re not actually bad but have a chance to show us that what we wanted wasn’t what was best for us after all. They can even point us in the right direction. I know for me, many times, I’ve had dreams that helped me heal from painful circumstances or helped encourage me toward a better place in life.

If any of these themes resonate with you, we hope you’ll check out our story.

THE BACKSTORY

Rene Gutteridge and I have been so privileged to work together in such a special and unique way. It started after I wrote The Ultimate Gift as a film, when she was hired to write a novelization of my script. After that, we teamed up on Never the Bride, a romantic comedy I had written as a script. We have an amazing working relationship and truly help each other to become better writers.

Our new project, Greetings from the Flipside, started when I was a writing fellow in a program called Art Within. We had to pitch about 50 ideas to the company before they settled on the one I would write into a script for the fellowship. The first germ of this idea started with just four words: “Christian Greeting Card Company.” They asked me to develop a romantic comedy for that setting. That was in 2007. And here we are, six years later, watching the release of the novelized version of that same story. You never know how long it will take to see something from its beginning stages grow to some kind of fruition (whether that is a book or a movie).

I had a lot of fun building a Pinterest board, sharing some of the locations I had in mind when writing the script. If you’d like to know what to picture as you read the novel, feel free to check it out:

Greetings from the Flipside Pinterest Board

One of the most fun days for a writer is when that first official copy shows up on your doorstep. After months or years of labor, you get to see the final product.

greetings 2

We’d love to hear from you! Rene and I have a joint page on Facebook. Look us up under Cheryl McKay & Rene Gutteridge or scroll down and like us from this page on the right.

Special thanks to B&H Publishing, who believed in us and our story.

BH logo

The book is now available from many book retailers:

Greetings from the Flipside B&H Publishing

Greetings from the Flipside Christian Book Distributors

Greetings from the Flipside Amazon

Greetings from the Flipside Books-a-Million

On the link to Barnes & Noble, you will need to type in the title:

Search for Greetings from the Flipside at Barnes & Noble

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