Maybe a Movie One Day!
Okay, here’s the truth: Few novels that get optioned by a producer or film company are actually ever turned into movies or TV series. And of those that are? Most fall into the science fiction or fantasy categories. (Happily, cop stories remain hot, too.)
But let’s back it up. What does it actually even mean to have your book optioned? Well, it means you’ve caught the eye of a production company that sees film potential in what you’ve written—something that can convert into a movie that will leave movie goers richly satisfied. When an option is made, the author gets some money (widely variable, but typically not huge) to sell the rights for a period of time, during which the company that optioned your novel will try to attract the attention of movie studio producers who spend millions to turn that book into a film. The production company might be a huge conglomerate such as Columbia, Paramount, MGM and the like. It might also be an independent. Misty Mountain Productions, the company that optioned my In the Spirit of Murder, is an independent that also does audio work and more.
Now, in most cases it helps a whole lot to have already prepared a movie script from your own book and submitted that to attract that option. Just tossing your novel at a producer (or possibly an agent or even entertainment lawyer first) rarely cuts it. Production companies want scripts, which in a lot of cases is almost like writing a whole new book. That’s because novels and movies are very different beasts. A script requires a seamless blend of action with solid, believable dialogue. They don’t run nearly as long as a novel. You might have to chop scenes, combine scenes, let go of a lot of description and . . . well, the list goes on.
A script also requires very specific and complex formatting. Final Cut is the gold standard, but there are plenty of programs out there that can do the same job for a lot less, and then be converted to Final Cut if required. (For my own novels, which were published in ebook and paperback editions through my publisher, The Fiction Works, I use Montage by Mariner Software. It works brilliantly.)
But beyond formatting for a script version, if you’re lucky enough to see an actual movie come from your efforts, almost certainly the script will be rewritten by someone else or a team of other people—not just once, but several times. The process can be exhilarating, but it takes a long time and it’s a good idea not to get excited about who the cast in your movie might be. That’s a decision that rarely includes the author, and probably for good reason. After all, production companies aren’t writing novels; most in the industry wouldn’t know how. And you? An author? Why would you even begin to imagine that you can just turn into a producer or even remotely know how much making a movie actually costs? This is pretty much the time to get over yourself and hope that you still recognize your story when it’s converted to a movie.
And by the way? Most movies are NOT based on novels. Most are written from beginning to end as original scripts, often by a team of writers, because a Hollywood team already knows what’s most likely to work on the silver screen.
Still, authors are known to be dreamers, and even getting an option is worth a leap into the air. And if you don’t break your leg making that leap, you might even burn a few calories. So see? There really aren’t any downsides to trying for an option. (Well, there IS the time factor, but that’s for another blog item.)