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Screenplay to Novel: Real Money from Used Pages


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A concise guide for turning a languishing screenplay into a lucrative book.

A friend of mine who used to be in the publishing business likes to say, "The trouble with publishing is that everyone who has half a mind to write a book, does."

That seems especially true of screenwriting. Apparently almost every frustrated or bored screenwriter in America has half a mind to write a book on how it's done.

I have read many, including the putative bible of screenwriting, Story by the irascible Robert McKee. (McKee didn't impress Press.) The internet is also replete with videos from sites like Film Courage, as well as blogs and promos for places like Masterclass, promising that some battle-scarred word warrior can give you the golden elixir that will make you a screenwriting Juggernaut.

For an activity as outwardly popular as screenwriting, with so small a chance of ever getting produced, there must be thousands of promising scripts out there languishing on thumb drives or yellowing in a drawer, crenelated by mouse molars waiting to be discovered.

Skip Press thinks he has the answer.

Press is both a successful author and screenwriter and has written popular books of his own about the craft. He points out that for every screenplay produced each year about 200 novels are published, which makes the odds much greater for the novelist.

He also points out that novels can be more lucrative, what with second printings, paperback editions and the chance of the novel being turned into a movie. While many novels have been rewritten for the screen, the reverse almost never happens. He tells the story of a screenwriter who couldn't sell his script, and turned it into a successful novel, which was then picked up by a studio.

Press assumes the reader has already written one or a dozen plays and is likely already schooled on structure and plot development. Instead he focuses on the daunting task of turning a 100 page screenplay into a 400 page book. He uses examples of stories turned into movies, like Shawshank Redemption, and Lolita to show the different approaches taken for each medium.

Numerous embedded links provide a further reading list for the digital age as well as resources for assistance on writing and publishing the novel. (Unfortunately, none of the links I clicked on worked.)

The book is well-written despite a few typos, which for me are like finding a bone in a morsel of fish.

With loads of information our her about writing screenplays, this book is unique in explaining how to go from script to book. It could be a great resource for the budding screenwriter wanting to break into publishing or a grizzled pro trying to decide what to do with that one opus that, for whatever reason, can't get traction at the studios.

Reviewed by

I am a writer and educator publishing fiction, essays, reviews and poetry. I write reviews for Wendy Welch's little bookstore at Big Stone gap blog. I am a writing teacher and workshop facilitator, and have published fiction, essays, reviews, poems and photographs.

Chapter One: Basic Differences

About the author

Skip Press is an editor, ghostwriter, playwright, producer, screenwriter, and TV staff writer who authored the Writer's Guide to Hollywood and Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting books. He is a moderator at the “Ask A Screenwriter” space on - 600,000+ followers. See view profile

Published on September 23, 2019

Published by

50000 words

Genre: Writing & Publishing

Reviewed by