Have An Original Screenplay? Write it as a Novel!


In the competitive world of entertainment, getting an original screenplay noticed by Hollywood can be a daunting task. That’s if you even have an agent. Granted, studios love a well-written, ready-to-shoot original piece; however, for writers who have not been able to bowl over the gatekeeper, publishing can be the next and best attempt.

By transforming your screenplay into a novel, you can create a solid foundation for your story and attract a base audience, increasing your chances of seeing your work on the big screen. Or, at the very least, you might receive a great option deal, which, in my opinion, is a win-win—the announcement alone can boost readers and book sales. Nevertheless, you’re in the driver’s seat and the objective is to get your story on its feet and on its way to entertain, one way or another.

Why Novels Have Better Legs Than Original Screenplays

Many celebrated films and TV shows originated as novels, demonstrating the enduring power of written stories in captivating audiences. This route has proven particularly fruitful for African-American authors, many of whom have achieved critical and commercial success. The hope for the industry is that your story brings a perspective that’s current, fresh, unexpected, or overwhelmingly popular. Here are some notable successes:

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Alexander’s award-winning novel in verse about two basketball-playing brothers was turned into a series on Disney+, bringing his poetic storytelling to a new medium. The series won an Emmy for Writing for a Young Teen Program.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This NY Times Best Seller had a profound impact which led to its adaptation into a successful film, highlighting societal issues and resonating deeply with viewers.

The Perfect Find by Tia Williams

Williams’s romantic novel was adapted into a film on Netflix, celebrating love and career aspirations in a vibrant, modern context.

Survival of the Thickest by Michelle Buteau

Buteau’s hilarious and heartfelt memoir was adapted into a Netflix series, showcasing her unique voice and perspective on life and love.

Nappily Ever After by Trisha R. Thomas

Thomas’s novel about self-discovery and hair politics was adapted into a Netflix film, resonating with many viewers.

Blood at the Root of Water by LaDarrion Williams

Williams’s powerful narrative was brought to life on Amazon Prime, highlighting the magical powers of inherited resiliency and important cultural and social themes.

Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan

McMillan’s novel about friendship and empowerment became a popular film that resonated with a wide audience.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was adapted into a film and a Broadway musical, twice demonstrating the story’s lasting impact.

Steps to Write Your Story as a Novel

1.      To begin crafting your screenplay into a novel, allow for more detailed storytelling and character development, which can appeal to publishers and readers alike.

2.      Submit your novel to literary agents and publishers. Even if traditional publishing proves challenging, self-publishing is a viable option.

3.      Promote your novel using social media, blogs, and author websites. Engaging with readers can create a dedicated fan base that attracts Hollywood interest.

4.      Join the Authors Guild. Fees are very reasonable for the plentiful resources available.

Educational Resources

·        Online Courses: Websites like Coursera and MasterClass offer courses on novel writing and screenwriting.

·        Workshops: Participate in workshops that focus on adapting novels into screenplays. This process will help clarify what’s important to expand upon or tailor in both mediums.

·        Books and Guides: Read books on writing and adaptation techniques to hone your skills. Writing a memoir? A good, easy read: “You Should Really Write a Book” by Brenda Richardson and Regina Brooks.

A Worthwhile Journey

When you love your story as much as your child or pet, nothing hurts like rejection. And when giving up isn’t an option, writing a novel is a great decision. You will feel more empowered and less likely to succumb to the woes of Hollywood. Becoming an author is rewarding in other ways, like connecting intimately with the audience, being celebrated for your commitment and accomplishment, and, best of all, children and/or adults will tell you what an impact you’ve made in their lives. 

As for earnings, again, win-win is all in your effort. The icing on the cake? Your novel that was once a screenplay becomes an adaption for an award-winning TV series, or a box office hit. “The Hate U Give” grossed over $34 million worldwide, significantly boosting Angie Thomas’s profile and earning potential. “The Color Purple,” well, that might be too much to quantify.

Personal Reflection and Inspiration

As the author of “Love Double Dutch!” (Penguin Random House), I have personally experienced the transformative power of storytelling. But when asked who inspired the author in me as a child, I immediately answered Judy Blume, the author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. However, it saddens me to admit that I hadn’t known or read books by any African-American authors. Not Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, or any other prolific African-American writer I had heard of, especially during grade school. Truthfully, and I am baring my soul here, I hadn’t learned of such influential authors until I attended my alma mater, Morgan State University, an HBCU. This revelation underscores the importance of diverse representation in literature and its impact on aspiring writers.

So, yes, I encourage you to embrace the challenge, tell your story, and take the first step toward transforming your creative vision into a powerful reading experience. With determination, the right resources, and strategic networking, your journey from screenplay to novel and then to adaptation can be both rewarding and successful. Yes, you should really write a book!

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