Why I, a novelist, write screenplays

Photo by Jackson Films on Unsplash

I write stories are women who are underestimated and determined to rise.

For a while now I’ve struggled with where to place my fiction writing efforts and energies: into novels or screenplays. I’ve debated the pros and cons of each (for me and from my perspective) in my mind so often that I’ve never come up with an answer, until today. Here’s how the debate between me, myself, and I has gone:

Novels
Pros:

- I get to create the entire world from beginning to end
- I can add as much description as I want
- The path is straightforward (but somewhat restrictive): write the novel, edit the novel, query
- People read books
- Books are inexpensive to create
- I can write and publish a novel from anywhere

Cons:
- I have to finish the entire work and have it be in its most polished form before I query
- Novels can take a long time to write and edit

Screenplays
Pros:

- Can take less time to write and edit than a novel
- I enjoy thinking of anything I write as a visual story and this is a natural fit for a screenplay
- Screenplays are usually heavy on dialogue and I like writing dialogue
- There are many ways to get eyes on a screenplay

Cons:
- The path to getting a script made is not straightforward
- Many people never read screenplays
- To get them made requires the work of many people and a decent amount of money
- Many times a script will get you repped but that script may never be made into a film or TV series; the script is often a vehicle to get you staffed
- L.A. really is the center of film and TV, and I don’t live in L.A.

This debate ended today with an answer I didn’t expect: I will do both. This is not a non-answer. What I realized is that a screenplay can be a phenomenal piece of writing embedded within a novel.

Think about it. A screenplay strips away a lot of the description inherent in a novel so the writer can see if the structure and plot work without getting lost in the words. A screenplay forces a writer to get to the heart of the action and focus on the visual and auditory storytelling with a character’s actions and words. A screenplay hones the dialogue because every single word counts. A scene or a piece of dialogue doesn’t move the story along in a screenplay? It gets cut. Set-ups and pay-offs become apparent. In a screenplay we very quickly get to know characters and what matters to them.

The screenplay that will become a novel doesn’t need to be structurally perfect. It needs to be the lovely bones, the intricate skeleton on which a novel writer can hang backstory and inner thoughts of the characters that they don’t share. Knowing that freed me in my writing in both formats. It was always about voice for me. Always will be. And a screenplay is the perfect way for a novel writer to find their voice that can be further amplified and expanded in a novel.

For a long time, I thought I was looking for an either / or answer to my question “screenplays or novels?”. All along the answer was, “Yes, and.”

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Award-winning author & writer—Product Dev — Biomimicry scientist — Podcaster. Runs on curiosity & joy. twitter.com/christanyc / instagram.com/christarosenyc

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Christa Avampato

Christa Avampato

Award-winning author & writer—Product Dev — Biomimicry scientist — Podcaster. Runs on curiosity & joy. twitter.com/christanyc / instagram.com/christarosenyc

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