So you want to switch sides?

Hey, Cindy! I can't believe I got you here. (I had to drag her in!)

Thanks to Mary and the Pink Fuzzies for letting me blog with them today!

What do you have for us today?

As a novel writer have you ever thought of jumping ship? Switching sides? Writing a - screenplay? I have to admit I’d thought about writing a screenplay for a while. When I was in high school I even wrote a series with my high school friends as the main characters. I was even going to film it and everything. I had no idea if I was doing it right or not. I found some screenplays somewhere. I can’t even remember where. The internet, not really a “thing” back then. But I wrote out a script then completely forgot about it.

Back in high school, at least in grade 11, 12, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer. Fast forward a lot of years to a time when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’d been diligently reading Writer’s Digest every month. And every year they had their Annual Writing Competition I wanted to enter. By this time I was writing novels though so, for me, the short story category was out of the question. I didn’t think I could write one of those anymore. Every year I thought I should enter the screenplay category. But I had no idea how to write one, where to start, if I could come up with an idea that wasn’t a book. It didn’t really matter because every year when I remembered I wanted to enter, the deadline had already passed.

Then one year I remembered early. And I thought I could do it. Switch sides, at least for a little while. Story telling was story telling, wasn’t it? I knew all about show, don’t tell, pacing, dialogue, conflict, three act structure. How hard could it be to write a script? Harder than I thought it would be.

Even though you’re telling a story, you’re telling it in a different way. You’re creating a blueprint for the director so he can film the movie. There are certain ways you have to introduce characters, introduce dialogue. There’s a lot more white space in a script. The “rules” are a lot more strict when it comes to margins and fonts, but for good reason.

I did enter that year. Not just one script, but two. And both received honourable mention. I haven’t looked back. Now I write scripts and novels. I think the skills complement each other. Using screenwriting techniques with my novels has helped me improve those novels immensely. Not to mention keep me on track so when I’m writing the story I don’t stray too much.

So have you ever thought about switching sides? Trying something new? Writing a movie even if it’s simply to turn one of your own novels into a script? I think it’s a great exercise to try.

I talk more in depth about the differences between writing scripts and writing novels in my workshop Is That Hollywood Calling? - How Thinking Like a Screenwriter Can Improve Your Novel. Comment here to be entered to win a lecture packet. If you don’t win, don’t worry! There’s still time to register for the class at:


  1. Margery Scott // August 11, 2011 at 10:47 AM  

    Cindy, great post. I, too, have tried writing screenplays and yes, it's a whole new adventure. Since you can't explain the characters' motives and thoughts, you have to show them in dialogue and action - and keep it to about a hundred pages. Not easy - but fun!

  2. Wylie Kinson // August 11, 2011 at 10:50 AM  

    Well I, for one, have toyed with idea...
    But then I remember that I should probably finish one of my 1/2 dozen 1/2 written novels first! LOL

  3. Vicki Essex // August 11, 2011 at 10:52 AM  

    I would love to try my hand at a screenplay--I try to envision my books as movies, and sometimes, it feels like it should be one instead of a book.

    Guess I'll have to try it sometime!

  4. Mary Marvella // August 11, 2011 at 12:44 PM  

    Good afternoon, Cindy!

    A friend and I attended a screenplay writing workshop years ago and wrote 2 screenplays. Nothing came of them. One was for Touched by an Angel and one was a full length movie. My friend died before we could submit the full length screenplay.

  5. Pamela Varnado // August 11, 2011 at 7:26 PM  

    Cindy, I've never written a screenplay, but I do use Michael Hauge's screenplay writing structure when i'm plotting a book. It definitely helps me to stay on track.

  6. Beth Trissel // August 11, 2011 at 9:48 PM  

    Good for you Cindy! I used to write both for awhile, but found I couldn't do both.

  7. Cindy Carroll // August 11, 2011 at 11:11 PM  

    Thanks for stopping by Margery. No, it's not easy but it is a lot of fun. I love writing scripts.

  8. Cindy Carroll // August 11, 2011 at 11:12 PM  

    Hi Wylie! LOL. I should finish my more than 1/2 dozen partially written novels too. But scripts are so much fun.

  9. Cindy Carroll // August 11, 2011 at 11:13 PM  

    Hi Vicki. You should try it. If you can envision them as movies and it feels like they should be movies you're part of the way there already.

  10. Mona Risk // August 11, 2011 at 11:22 PM  

    Hi Cindy, I wrote a screenplay many years ago, when I was in college. It was quite funny, and was played at our church's special event. Never did another.

  11. Cindy Carroll // August 11, 2011 at 11:35 PM  

    Mary, hugs. Would you ever consider writing a screenplay again?

  12. Cindy Carroll // August 11, 2011 at 11:37 PM  

    Hi Pamela! I find it helps me stay on track too. Even if it's just figuring out the high level events in each act.

  13. Cindy Carroll // August 11, 2011 at 11:38 PM  

    Hi Beth. I like doing both because if I get stuck on the novel I can switch gears and work on the script.

  14. Cindy Carroll // August 11, 2011 at 11:39 PM  

    Hi Mona. Cool that it was actually played out. That must have been fun.

  15. Sherry Isaac // August 12, 2011 at 7:45 AM  

    The first piece I wrote that made me realize I really am a writer was a script for a webcast play. Because it was performed as an old-time radio broadcast, there was no action. Other than a few absolutely necessary interjections by a narrator, I had to tell the story through dialogue. A great way to develop the show don't tell muscles.

  16. Tamara LeBlanc // August 12, 2011 at 8:33 AM  

    Hmm, I've never thought of switching sides. Not because there's anything wrong with screenwriting, but to me it seems even harder than novel writing.
    So I'm impressed by your switch hitting abilities:)
    Looking forward to learning more about the differences between the two!
    Have a great weekend,

  17. Mary Marvella // August 12, 2011 at 9:41 AM  

    Cindy, I might consider it. Once I finish my Demon's Daughters and the
    Virgin Sacrifice ad get those out. (grin)

  18. Nightingale // August 12, 2011 at 12:06 PM  

    I'd love to write a screenplay of one of my novels. Even started once, but realized I don't know how! Thanks for being with us Cindy!

  19. Anonymous // August 12, 2011 at 2:07 PM  

    Thanks for blogging with the fuzzies. This an interesting topic. I have an idea I'd like to explore!


  20. Mary Ricksen // August 13, 2011 at 6:58 PM  

    I think you have to be a bit of a ham. And I couldn't act to save my life. Hmmmmmm Great post Cindy. I do know another Romance Author who wrote a few screenplays and I'll tell you this she does the best dialogue ever in her books!!!

  21. Cindy Carroll // August 14, 2011 at 9:35 PM  

    Hi Sherri. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it is a great way to exercise those show, don't tell muscles.

  22. Cindy Carroll // August 14, 2011 at 9:36 PM  

    Hi Nightingale. Don't let that stop you! I had no idea how to write scripts either when I first started. It's a lot of fun.

  23. Cindy Carroll // August 14, 2011 at 9:37 PM  

    Hi Tamara. I don't know if it's harder, it's just different. It's a different way of thinking because you can't do the same things you do in a novel. For example introspection. But it is a lot of fun.

  24. Cindy Carroll // August 14, 2011 at 9:38 PM  

    Hi Scarlet. Thanks. Explore that idea!

  25. Cindy Carroll // August 14, 2011 at 9:40 PM  

    Hi Mary R. It doesn't surprise me that she does great dialogue. It's a major part of the screenplay and it has to be good.

  26. Cindy Carroll // August 14, 2011 at 9:41 PM  

    And, the winner of the lecture packet is Sherry! Sherry, email me through my website with your email address so I can send it to you.

  27. Josie // August 17, 2011 at 12:39 PM  

    I'm fascinated at the idea of writing a screenplay. It seems like it's so foreign after writing a novel, but there's probably many similarities.

  28. Cindy Carroll // August 19, 2011 at 11:38 AM  

    Hi Josie.

    There are many similarities. They are still very different too. I love doing both. And I love teaching writers the differences and how they can use that screenwriting knowledge to make their novels stronger.