Imagine this: The book you wrote being turned into a movie or series that’s made available on a content streaming platform.
It’s an exhilarating thought! And, entirely possible.
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV are always searching for a new story, but you have to go about it the right way, otherwise, they will never notice you.
So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details of turning this idea into a reality.
Do Your Research
You can’t write a book, pitch it to a content platform, and think it will magically become a movie or TV show. It doesn’t work that way.
Before you even start writing, you need to do some research to understand the industry better. It allows you to prepare yourself and your book for what lies ahead.
Review Book, Film, and Series Adaptations
Hundreds of films and shows based on books are available already, so use them as a starting point for your research.
Do a quick internet search and you should be able to find several lists from which to choose. To get you going, watch the following video about some of the most popular book adaptations.
Once you’ve watched the movie or show, read the book, too, to determine what changed and try to figure out why this is the case. Look for similarities, differences, and whether new characters were introduced or if some were left out.
Read Books About Screenwriting
There are many books about screenwriting as well as screenplays you can read to better gauge what might be expected from you. This will also give you insight into what things you might need to consider that you wouldn’t when reading a traditional novel.
Screenwriting books dissect the entire process and make it easier for you to adapt literature. It’s useful to read these books in advance and keep them in mind while writing your book, but you can still use the recommended strategies with previously written content.
Find a Niche
As you do the research, categorize the different adaptations into genres or tropes. Look for popular categories, storylines, and themes.
Think about your own idea and how it would fit into these categories. Is your idea new and exciting? Does it tell a familiar story from a different perspective? Would the public like your idea?
Search for similar stories to the one you have and determine why they did or did not work. If you have a fresh idea that hasn’t been done before, then consider why this is the case—is it because nobody has pitched it before, or is it a topic the public isn’t interested in?
Once you’ve done your research, you can start the process of writing your book. However, there are still many things to think about throughout the process.
Every movie, TV show, and book has its own structure. Usually, it’s something along the lines of creating a scenario, experiencing conflict, a climax, and then reconciliation before the ending.
When you write your book, you have to think of incorporating all these elements as if you could see the story unfolding in front of your eyes. Imagine the settings, the interwoven storylines, and who would say what so that you can capture your audience’s attention continuously.
Think About the Limitations of Screen Adaptations
Books that become movies or TV shows frequently undergo extensive adaptation by producers because the story cannot be told as it is in the book.
For example, a book written in the first-person narrative may not work as well on screen because it’s difficult to explain what the character is thinking or experiencing through the use of the word “I.” The only way to achieve this properly is through narration, but not all screen productions are well-suited to it.
As you plan your book, think about how you can tell the story in a way that would be portrayed well on-screen.
Movies Based on Books
As your book unfolds in front of you, think about it as if it is on screen already. Imagine it broken down into different acts or scenes and how your characters would act them out.
In some cases, you could be planning a series of books. Writing a series of books is an opportunity that could lead to a series of blockbuster movies such as with Fifty Shades of Grey or the Harry Potter movies.
Explore these ideas from the start because it can help you split the story into manageable chunks that don't give everything away from the start.
TV Shows Based on Books
You might believe your book is better suited to become a TV show with many episodes.
It’s possible that you envision each chapter as an episode or maybe even an entire season. Keep in mind that different parts of the book could also be combined for episodes through flashbacks or daydreaming.
While you plan and write your book(s), think about whether you see it as a limited miniseries with only one season or a series with several seasons.
A single book can inspire production companies in different ways. For example, The Handmaid’s Tale is a single book that produced four seasons. In contrast, the book Sharp Objects was adapted as an eight-part miniseries.
Focus on Your Characters
Viewers and readers buy into relatable characters much more than the storyline. They want protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters that make them feel at home and create a sense of belonging.
When you develop characters in your book to have personalities, flaws, and strengths, viewers love them much more. The story becomes secondary, but the audience still relates to it in some way.
Explore your characters thoroughly. Imagine which actors you would cast in the role of each character. Introduce your characters to the world as if they were real people.
Use Your Existing Content
It’s quite possible that you already have previously written and published works that you would like to see on the big screen but you may need to adapt the content.
Go through your book and rework it into different scenes, or however you deem fit. Check that the story could be adapted for the screen without any narration (unless that’s what you have in mind).
Investigate your characters and create them with more detail so that they are ready for actors to bring them to life. Consider the story from the perspective of various characters to determine whether a different point of view would be better suited for film.
Grab the Attention of Streaming Platforms
Writing the book is only the first part of the process; you still have to get it into the hands of content platforms.
Find an Agent
Whether it’s a TV series or movie based on books, you have to follow the right process to get it onto Netflix and the like. You can’t simply send them a copy of your book or an email saying you have something they may be interested in.
It doesn’t work that way. Most content platforms won’t accept unsolicited submissions.
You have to work through an agent. It could be a literary agent, a production company, or a producer. Once you find an agent, they will follow the right channels to pitch your idea to content platforms.
Create an Elevator Pitch
As you search for your literary breakthrough into Hollywood, you should prepare an elevator pitch. It should be a one-sentence description of why your story deserves a film adaptation.
Make it exciting so that you immediately capture the attention of agents, actors, and production companies. You want to give them a glimpse into your story and the main characters.
It’s possible that you will do many pitches,so you need a system to keep track of them. Create a spreadsheet where you can add details about the date of the interaction, who you spoke to, and any response. If you don’t hear from them within a certain period of time, then do a follow-up to prompt a response.
Become a Familiar Face
To stand a chance of your book becoming a movie or series, you have to market yourself. Put yourself front and center in the minds of anyone in the industry.
Attend film festivals, go to conventions, and sign up for things like acting or screenwriting workshops. Talk to the people at these events and ask them for their business cards so that you can build your network and get in touch in the future.
Prepare for More Writing
When you do hear from a production company or agent, expect to be doing more work on your book. Most companies won’t take it as-is so be open to tweaks or even large changes.
You might need to submit character profiles, plot outlines, or chapter summaries. It helps to create some of these in advance so that you only need to adapt them slightly once they are asked of you.
Keep an open mind because agencies may push your ideas in a totally different direction. It could make the story better and you might see it in a way you never have before.
The Closing Act
If you always imagined your name after the words “Inspired by the novels of…” then it’s time to start writing.
Do the research, write your book (or get a ghostwriter to help you), and start building an industry network. Soon, you will take your fictional world to the big screen!