Screenwriting VS Novel-writing

Posted by February 16th, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (February 9, 2012)

Ever think about trying to write a screenplay? We chatted with screenwriters Doug Richardson and Jeanne Veillette Bowerman to get some tips.


For a novelist, trying new techniques, styles, genres, and the like is imperative. It’s how we learn and grow and find our voice. But it can also be helpful to try writing in different mediums, like drafting a screenplay, for example. Whether you try your hand by adapting your already-existing prose into a script or starting fresh, the process of screenwriting is very different than that of novel-writing. You have less room to play with subplot, with specific discriptors, and more of your focus is on dialogue and scene. Screenwriting forces a writer to get to the heart of the story quicker, more clearly, and with greater punch, perhaps, than other mediums.

To get a closer look at the screenwriting versus novel-writing process, we asked Doug Richardson (@byDougRich) and Jeanne Veillette Bowerman (@JeanneVB) to chat with us on Twitter.

Doug went to the USC Film School to learn the ropes, and then shot to success by writing films such as DIE HARD 2, BAD BOYS, WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT, and HOSTAGE. He’s also written a number of novels, including DARK HORSE and TRUE BELIEVERS. His experience and expertise is vast and valuable!

Jeanne spends a great deal of her time educating writers on screenwriting, in addition to writing herself (she recently wrote the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME!). She writes a monthly Balls of Steel column for Script Magazine and co-founded the weekly twitter screenwriter chat, #Scriptchat.

Here are some gems from the lively chat–you can also get the full transcript below:

@jeannevb: The hardest part [of adapting a novel to film] is the descriptors. In screenplays you cannot write anything that can’t be seen on screen. NO thoughts

@byDougRich: In book you can say “he stared into the void.” In a movie, it’s how big is the void, what color, how  many carpenters to build?

@MJLucey: This is a hard buisness. It isn’t eacy for those under 40 either. Being older means you have more to write about.

@jeannevb: fyi, it’s MUCH harder to get an agent as a screenwriter than a novelist. Just a reality.

@byDougRich: Screenwriting is about being efficient and getting to the point. Not much time to linger when blowing up sh*t.

@debhoudekrule: Scriptwriting format is pretty simple. Rethinking story structure and characterizations to visuals is more significant change.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Remember though that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up to page 1.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this awesome discussion!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter @Book_Country.

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