The dwindling market for original screenplays in Hollywood has left aspiring screenwriters looking to the literary market to find an audience for their stories. But the process of adapting from a screenplay into a novel presents unique storytelling issues that have yet to be formally addressed.

This blog is the product of a year-long partnership between Jon James Miller, an award-winning screenwriter, and Charlotte Cook, publisher at KOMENAR Publishing, to develop one of Jon's award-winning scripts into a publishable novel.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In the Beginning ...

In November 2008 I flew into Burbank from Oakland for the annual Creative Screenwriting Expo held at the Convention center. I had won Grand Prize in the AAA (Access, Acclaim, Achievement ) Screenplay Contest run by Creative Screenwriting Magazine in March and was comp’d for the whole expo.

Forest fires had been raging for weeks in and around LA County. My lungs burned and my eyes stung as I walked from my hotel to the convention center amidst falling ash. I entered the building and got in line for my all-access pass and bag of swag. The writer’s strike was on everyone’s lips. I wiped white ash off my sport coat and headed into the first writing seminar. If ever there was a bad time to win a screenwriting contest, I had hit it.

Barely anyone attended to discuss the topic: Effective Marketing Techniques for Original Screenplays. The seminar played like a memorial service for someone no one liked. The speaker, a professional screenwriter and writing guild member, could not have been more demoralized. When asked by an audience member what he did all day while not writing scripts he said, “I’m writing a novel.” The four of us in the audience cowered in fear, the message clear: we were fucked. I had won my first major writing award for a screenplay whose prospects of selling looked as dim and foreboding as the dark and smoky skies over Hollywood.

Fifteen years after graduating film school and moving to LA, I’d managed to option two scripts, win one award and consistently place in the finals of numerous writing contests only to come to the realization the industry I hungered to be in was in chaos. I flew out of Burbank two days later with the three copies of my winning screenplay to hand Producers still in my suitcase. The screenplay I had worked to perfect over five years had never seen the light of day. As far as anyone in LA was concerned, it wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

Or was it?

During the hour flight back to the bay area, I thought over what the speaker had said about writing a novel during the screenwriter’s strike. Why not write a novel? Better yet, why not write a novel adapted from the winning screenplay that I couldn’t give away? Industry people saw a story there. Writers were always adapting novels into screenplays. So why not do the reverse? That idea sounded a hell of a lot more reasonable than letting five years of research, writing and rewriting be for nothing. How hard could adapting be, right?

What follows is the ongoing story of my journey from screenwriter to novelist. Along the way I found the perfect partner in crime and together we created “Adapting Sideways: The Not-So-Straightforward Transition from Screenwriter to Novelist.” She will share her experience and insights on the novelization process. I’ll share the insights, critical junctures, setbacks and rewards I’ve found. We both believe that our collaboration has importance beyond our mission. What we share might help other screenwriters and novelists.


1 comment:

  1. Just discovered this blog. Fascinating read about writers who want their stories heard. Looking forward to reading more of your insights as you go about adapting your screenplay.