WHAT IS EASIER TO WRITE, A NOVEL OR A SCREENPLAY?

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I’ll start by saying I have never attempted to write a novel. I’ve come up with ideas but after assessing how long a novel is compared with a film script, I’ve always translated my idea to the screenplay medium. That’s not to say that writing a screenplay is easy, as there are a whole host of different rules to abide and structures and formats to follow. But, seeing as most screenplays are at least half the length of a good novel, I always go for the short option!

The thing is, I’m not a big fiction reader. I don’t get a chance to read a lot, and when I do it usually seems to be some biography or other. So I never feel totally confident that I know how to write a novel. On the other hand, I watch a lot of movies so I feel more at home in that world, and like to think I know a bit about how to write a script (anyone who has read my screenplays will probably say otherwise).

The problem is, I imagine that writing a novel is more rewarding due to the amount of work that goes into it. All that flowery, descriptive verse, compared with a bare bones screenplay. It must be really satisfying to hit three hundred odd pages and look at what you have and give yourself a pat on the back. You get that with a screenplay as well, but I don’t know if the satisfaction would or should come until someone actually buys the damn thing. I mean, a screenplay sat on your shelf at home is useful to know one. At least with a novel you can self publish it and someone might read it. The only chance you have with a screenplay is either that someone likes it enough to make it for you (and that’s a very slim chance so we are told all the time), or you try and make it yourself, and that’s a whole different ball game.

So, I think the next time I come up with an idea for a screenplay, maybe I will sit back and think for a minute. Can I flesh this idea out into a novel instead? From ninety pages to three hundred? I think I want to give that a go.

So if anyone has any tips about how to write a novel (hey I have four days left of NaNoWriMo!) then please get in touch via the comments section below. I would love to get some help from all you writers out there!

Tom

About thomasjford

I like Movies and Music and most things popular culture.

21 comments

  1. Great post, I think both of them are hard to write, yet when writing a book as you’ve said you can set the scene better with description.

  2. sfoxwriting

    brilliant article 🙂

  3. That’s exactly how I feel about it. I’d love to write a novel, but I’m not sure it would be good enough. Whereas with a script it feels easier. I’ve written a couple scripts too, but yeah I hope to come up with a great story one day that I can translate into a book. Best of luck with your projects. The only tip I can give you is keep trying! You always learn something even with a “failed” attempt. Perseverance is what it’s all about.

    • Yeah, I just feel I know film better than I do fiction writing, and I can’t claim to have read even some of the top books of all time, so how can I be a writer?
      It’s like being a songwriter and sayig you don’t like The Beatles, or a comedian who doesn’t like Woody Allen! (That one was for you Davide)!

  4. Having done both, they are different media. The story material in a script essentially a short story. Forget about the flowery, descriptive verse. A novel is more complicated – metaphors, similes, allegories.
    One way to approach a novel is to take a script which has a lot in it, and turn it into 50,000 words.

    • And there lies my problem! I’m really not clever enough for metaphors, similes and allegories! That is why I couldn’t even hope to write a novel I don’t think.

      • Very few authors figure those out before hand. Most good jokes involve a literary device, and I image you are a master or acquainted with them.
        When you catch a relative, friend, lover or someone else in a lie, The hypocrisy becomes literary when written out and leads to use of those literary devices.
        An Example of a story. Hard nose minister from a large town is prominent. He is adamantly against abortion. As part of his ministry he gets around, drinks a little and everyone loves him.
        EXCEPT, one night he drives drunk and kills a pregnant woman and her child. What has he done? He’s killed a fetus.
        After that point the author can make the story anything he wants: Commentary about Americans making excuses for some and not others. A detailed legal novel. Identifying another angle and using other voices. e.g. laws in states that prosecute killing of a fetus (California) and states where such killing is not criminal.(Which ones?)
        This can be a screenplay, but there is enough material there to put down at least 60,000 words.
        I will likely not write this.

      • Hahahaha, I most likely will not either! So does every book have to have some deeper meaning to it? I’ve written before about not being very deep, so I always just assumed people try and see hidden meaning in things that don’t have any. Wow, now I really am floundering. Can’t I just write a simple tale about a road trip that goes wrong or something, without it being allegorical etc?

      • If you’re writing of a simple road trip, Day One through Day Five, Twelve, and every hits the protagonist as something of first impression, and no present experience is related to any other memory or experience in the protagonist’s past, then there may be no chance of a literary device.
        However, in such a writing, there’s no story and no character development. It will be a bad script. You either explain the protagonist’s circumstances or predicament, or you have unrelated diary entries.

      • OK, so lets say the story is about two guys who meet at an AA meeting. They support each other through the bad times, they are kind of down and out types, and one of them owes some money to a bad dude. He ends up at a bar and starts drinking again, his mate accompanies him to keep him in check, but he also starts drinking. The guy they owe money to turns up. It kicks off. Both our ‘heroes’ awake in the morning, bloodied and realise what went down the night before, they killed the money collector. Now they escape the bad guys and the police by driving across country, whilst trying to avoid booze. How would I insert some deeper meaning into this?

      • I would do it in the “back story.” 1) They are not the best of friends. They are in a joint venture – getting away. You’re story in part is about building the friendship which they’re not doing consciously. The reader knows but not the players. 2) They’re on the road. Something happens and one of them is upset, goes off, or is distraught, or something else. In a short passage get the story out of that character. It may be something to resolve quickly, it never be resolved, it may be something that runs through the entire story and becomes a joke, or something else. 3) Things and stuff come up that one reacts to, and you play that out. Some of those things and stuff might come up, and they both react and disagree: They argue, yell, scream. 4) You might be describing what happens during a marriage. 5) At the end you’ve given enough information so the reader understand how the characters got into the bar, and why they were beaten up. 6)They’ve left that mindset. One may still drink, but he knows the friendship and getting away from his past life is much more important.
        This is not the only way to go about it, but I think your concept is terrific. Since you’re traveling, the setting alone may disturb one or more of the guys; or the time to travel. And the jokes and irony: They’re traveling south. One guy doesn’t want to drive through Texas because it takes too long. He wants to go through more states.

      • Nice insight! Thanks a lot for your help. I shall put these suggestions to good use one day I hope!

      • I’ll look forward to the product.

      • You will be first up for a signed copy haha 😀👍

  5. You know I think that a screenplay is easier to write, but perhaps for a strange reason. If you write a bad novel, it sort of ends there. But if you write an underwhelming screenplay that nevertheless could translate well to the big (or small) screen, then a talented director and production crew could turn it into something really good. So I guess I think a screenplay would be the easier of the two because it’s the start of a collaborative project, not a finished product.

    • Interesting thought, I have a hunch that scripts are easier to write, but I hope to one day chance my arm at a novel. I need to learn more about the art first though I think. What about you?

  6. Not having read many novels recently might be to your advantage as a writer – you’re less likely to try to mimic someone’s style or be boringly derivative. Also, you don’t have to add literary flourishes if that isn’t your cup of tea. Hemingway was a ‘literary’ writer, and look at his story below:
    ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’
    I know this is an odd example, because it’s probably the shortest short story ever penned, but you can see that there is a strong theme, a pull on the emotions etc. without any descriptive adverbs.

    From what I’ve read of your blogging you have what I call a good clean style so a novel or a screenplay could both be within your grasp!

    • I actually do know that Hemingway story, it’s amazing isn’t it!

      I know what you mean about not having any novels to be able to copy if I haven’t read many, but I think I still need to have some sort of reference point. I think I want it to be in a similar vein to Elmore Leonard or Cormac McCarthy or something. I like that whole ‘Americana’ kind of thing.

      Thanks for the compliment as well, really kind of you, and I’m glad you like the blog!

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