If you’re feeling emotionally and psychologically balanced, I have a way to fix that:  for your next writing project, render it as both a novel and a script at the same time. I’ve been doing that with The Forever Game, the novel (and script) that I’m halfway through.

Why am I doing this and why is it proving so difficult? As for the first question, every novel I’ve written (three so far:  Left for Alive, The Devil’s Breath, and The Empty Confessional) wound up being a script as well. And even though The Devil’s Breath won some contests and achieved some interest from agents and producers, the feedback from readers was almost universal: that it read like something that was first a novel. (True on all three counts.)  So with TFG, I decided to write them concurrently and find out how each informed and influenced the other.

Now halfway through both the novel and screenplay, I can say that it’s a mixed bag. Part of it is the advice I get from the professionals and early readers. Those reviewing the novel want more; those reviewing the script want less. Let’s start with the novel side of things. The first novel I wrote, Left for Alive, I challenged myself to write it in third-person limited. In other words, you never went inside the characters’ heads—everything you learned was through their words and actions. With the next two novels I did venture into their motivations and back stories, but only in a limited fashion. This time, with TFG, I’m going fully inside the characters. That, and the fact that it’s a complicated plot with more characters than I’ve written in the past, mean that TFG will be a longer book than any of its predecessors.

Now switch to the script. Unless you’re Aaron Sorkin, your script—if you want it to get read—should come in between 108 and 120 pages. (I’m told that readers will often turn to the last page to note page count, skipping anything higher than 120). So in this case not only am I ‘killing my darlings’ from my 400-page novel, I’ve got to pare down the scenes and characters that do make the transition. The producer who is interested in TFG as a script has done an excellent job of telling me what she regards as the core items, leaving it to me to find ways to make it work.

So would I go this route again with the next novel? Probably not, simply because of the confusion. I’ll assume that something I wrote in one form has made it over to the other. Then I have to re-read quite a bit to find it, if it exists at all. But I may have a different answer by the time I get to the end of both. Stay tuned.