The 8 Rules for Writing Screen-to-Print

You read that title right. It means screenplay writing rules for writing a book.

We live a new literary world of 140 character Twitter, personal Facebook dispatches and USA Today snappy prose. The reading audiences of the New York Times who enjoyed reading ‘literature’ has rapidly declined with their subscribers. Or to paraphrase Elmore Leonard, “Literary fiction is when they leave in the boring parts that everybody skips.”

Or to put it another way:

Literary fiction is the fiction of ideas. Its primary purpose is to evoke thought. The writer’s goal is self-expression. Any consideration of the reader—if one exists at all—is purely secondary.

Popular fiction is the fiction of emotion. Its primary purpose is to evoke feelings. The writer’s goal is to entertain the reader. Any consideration of self-expression—if one exists at all—is purely secondary.

One can still hope to write the Great American Novel but if you want to make writing your career – you have to make money. Many experts on writing agree that if revenue is what you seek, then you must write for markets – not for prosperity. Pursue a writing career not so much for fame but for fortune.

I suggest writing stories that are screen-to-print.

So how is that done? What RULES apply?

 To do that we need to talk Hemingway.

After he finished “The Old Man and the Sea,” Hemingway wrote his brother, Leichester, telling him that he did not think there was single wasted word in the book. He may be right. The story is a lean, powerful tale. So lean that it may well be the only book ever written to havevery nearly every scene transposed into the film version.

So here is rule NUMBER ONE – Think movie scenes and not chapters.  Write the story in such a way as how it would look on the big screen. What I am saying is that we can all learn something from Hemingway.

He had some tips for writing well. Use short sentences, use short first paragraphs, (I would add all your paragraphs should be short, sweet and to the point), use vigorous language, say what something is rather than what it isn’t. He learned this style when working as a newspaper reporter.

If you’ve spent any time on the writing discussion boards, you’ll see that the majority of comments about writing style seem to fall into two groups. Those that believe the flowery prose of the literati is real writing and those that feel authors should write to be marketable and choose to eschew obfuscation. Now there are those who believe that paragraphs and even pages of narrative are necessary for successful story telling.

I don’t.

Which brings us to the next set of rules writing Screen-to-Print.

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