Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Script vs. Novel Writing

I've gone to school for both script writing and novel writing. At Chatham University, in Pittsburgh PA, I studied children's writing. In Santa Monica CA, I graduated from Writer's Boot Camp with knowledge of movie and TV script writing. Both types of writing have similarities, and both have differences. Lets explore what they are, so you can decide which way you should take your idea. 


TV Pilots: Sometimes an idea that pops into your head may not be made for a novel. Maybe it could be a one time movie? Or maybe it's big enough to fill a season or ten on TV. 

A pilot is a standalone episode of a television series. It is used to initially sell the show to a network. The writer's are testing the idea on a group of people. This could be a live audience or a network head. 

Timing is a big deal for these types of scripts.

Ask yourself these questions:

   What is succeeding right now?
   What direction is society heading?
   How quick can I get my material out there?
   What is tanking and why?
   Who do I know in the business?

The TV pilot is looked at for overall voice. Rarely is the original pilot used for the first season. It's more like a pitch for the story idea. 

  1. Be entertaining
  2. Be clear
  3. Command the room
  4. Be funny
  5. Be the expert
  6. Know your idea, the characters, the plot inside and out
  7. Make sure they got it before you leave the meeting
  8. Use personal experiences to make your idea clear
  9. Do you have any articles or stories that could help them see
  10. What is the unique angle
  11. What is the commercial potential
  12. High Concept is a plus
  13. What is the hook
  14. Does the main character have an on-going problem
  15. How relatable is the story
  16. How many stories are there
  17. Don't hold back
  18. Would you personally invest $$ in the show
Before you Pitch:
  • Be sure to know what network your idea would do best on
  • Who is your audience
  • Times the show would be the best received
  • How much money does the show need to launch
  • How many stories are there
  • How many main characters
  • How many side characters
  • What is the ending? How many years/episodes

Dialogue is very important to a script. Unlike Novels, where the writer must build a world, walls, and pictures with words, scripts only use dialogue. Know your characters way of speaking and keep to it. 

White Space:
White space in a script is the blank parts of the paper. There must be a lot of white space. If your script is heavy, dense with words, it does not look professional. It won't be taken seriously.

Series Concept:
What is the main idea of your story? How long can it run? Can it be interesting for years? Be specific. What is the main problem? Who are the main characters? Where is it set? Is the key lead diverse? How edgy is the idea? Are you pushing the envelope? 

Commercial Potential:
What products and companies will want to advertise during your act breaks? Can you use products in the story? Who should you attempt to fund the show? What products won't want to advertise during your show?

Novel idea: You have an idea. Could it be for TV? Or should it be a novel? Well that depends on you the writer. Is it high concept? Dialogue run? Some ideas can be both, obviously. But what is right for you, the writer?

Many of my ideas were movie scripts first. I write dialogue well. So naturally I tried out my ideas as scripts. But even as they worked, I didn't feel satisfied. First, I didn't want to sell my idea for a flat rate. And as a newbie writer, my rate would not be big. Also, if you sell your script, your rights are gone. They can change everything about it, and leave out your name. I didn't want that either. So, I decided to use my scripts as outlines for my novels. 

I wanted to be more invested in the idea as well. I wanted to write the descriptions of the world around my characters. I wanted to play more with words. Script writing did not fill me up the way novel writing does. 

Ask yourself these questions:
  • What is being overdone?
  • What has not been done in a while?
  • Do I have a high concept idea?
  • What are agents looking for?
  • Who do I know in the business?
  • How long will it take me to write the novel?

  1. Get your story idea down to 3 - 5 sentences
  2. Talk about the Main Character only
  3. What is the hook
  4. Is it high concept
  5. Don't hold back
Before Pitching your idea:
  • Know what houses or agencies would publish it
  • Know the market
  • Research other books like it
  • Who is your audience
  • What is the ending

Dialogue: Novels are dependent on dialogue just like scripts. No difference here.

White Space: It is just as important to have white space on your pages. But, because you do have to describe the world in which the characters live, there will be less. There should be a balance of dialogue, description, and action. 

Series Concept: As a newbie writer, do not mention that this could be a trilogy, or series book. Leave that to the professionals. Once you are a known writer, with readers, then you can explore openly with your agent, or editor about series potential. 

Commercial Potential: No need to worry about product placement in a novel. If your idea ever does become a movie, or TV series, the writers there will mold this potential. 

When your idea, whether it be for a TV series, or a novel, gets picked up have a professional look at your contracts before you sign. Do not get over excited and jump two feet in with the first offer. Take your time. You know your writing, and time spent on the project is worth it. 

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