Adapting Your Book or Story to a Screenplay


By Elizabeth English

So you have a great story to tell, and are sure it would make a popular film? Don’t we all?! Here are some options if you’re not (yet) an accomplished screenwriter:

  1. Hire a good, professional, possibly award-winning screenwriter whose work you like, to write the adaptation (but that’s expensive, $10-25K & up) and most talented screenwriters prefer to write their own story ideas & are very reluctant to work on someone else’s story, unless well paid to do so.
  2. Learn how to write screenplays yourself! Buy Final Draft screenwriting program, research existing screenplays online (but these are usually production scripts for green-lighted scripts, and you need to learn to write a cinematic reader’s script), and there are quite a few How-To books available, but be sure to get the ones published recently. Also, look into this book publisher’s catalogue: www.mwp.com
  3. Be sure to consider a writer and/or film producer who is familiar with the subject matter of your story. If the writer is not familiar with it, you’ll have to pay for the research work & time spent, too.

Note: if you are thinking of offering any screenwriter a percentage of the eventual script sale, and/or writer credits, instead of paying for their work, you probably should forget that. 

  1. Check out the Moondance e-zine on this website: for articles on good screenwriting and on how to get an agent. 

Two points to consider: 

  1. Producers get hundreds of scripts & proposals weekly, and they will usually not even read it or be interested unless it comes from a WGA agent, and there are production funds along with the script. They very rarely will love the script or story enough to go out to find the money to produce it. 
  2. Having the book published first is a good way to get attention from producers, agents and funding entities, especially if the book sells well & gets positive reviews. If it does, they may come to you with offers!
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