How to Make Your Novel into a Film

By Dr. Ken Atchity

You’ve written a novel and want to see it on the big or little screen. Here are nine suggestions about how to turn that dream into a reality:

1) Make your novel a bestseller. Do whatever is necessary to get it to appear on bestseller lists, especially The New York Times’.

2) Get your novel favorably reviewed by The New York Times or another major newspaper.

3) Make your novel an internet sensation, to draw the attention of “trackers” who look for new stories to turn into films.

4) Bring your novel to the attention of a major director, or a major star.

5) Find one of the top agents in Hollywood who handles books and convince him to represent your book to the film industry.

6) Write, or hire someone to write, a professional treatment of your novel, following the guidelines presented in my Writing Treatments That Sell.

7) Convince or pay a professional screenwriter to write a screenplay of your novel.

8) Get an agent or manager to request the screenplay, read it, and agree to represent it.

9) Find a financer to develop and finance the movie based on your novel, starting with the business plan, script, and budget and including securing equity to cover at least twenty-five percent of the film’s budget.
Read your work out loud. It’s harder to fool the ear than the eye.
I never miss an opportunity to try to point out that poetry is made of words, yes. That it is made of words and sound, yes. But above all, in structural elements, poetry is made of lines. Unless the line is working, the rhythm is gone, and the power of poetry over the unsayable has disappeared with it.—Archibald MacLeish
"Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good."

- Samuel Johnson via Michael A. Simpson


The human brain is the laziest apparatus in the world. If you start to revise before you’ve reached the end, you’re likely to begin dawdling with the revisions and putting off the difficult task of writing. Unless I find I’ve made some drastic mistake in characterization or basic structure, I never go back until I’ve written the last page.—Pearl S. Buck


I never specifically describe the sex at because it’s such a bore laid bare. My readers wonder if they’re normal if they don’t have sex upside down, swinging from a chandelier. So I’m their escape, their fairy tale. I give them the glamour and the beautiful clothes and the marvelous attentive men they are starved of.

— Barbara Cartland

Join Me April 13th - Key Speaker at the Book Publicists of Southern California

Waterfalls Room at the Sportsmens Lodge
12833 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA

Evening Program includes Cocktails & Networking, Buffet Dinner
5:30pm - 10:00pm

$29.00 /$10:00 (Program Only)
BPSC March April 2011


You can avoid being one of the massive majority novelists whose novel has virtually no chance of becoming a film by remaining at the drawing board until you’ve made sure:

1) You have a castable lead in your protagonist, meaning a male between thirty and fifty.

2) You have an antagonist who’s as powerful as your protagonist.

3) You have a female lead that every actress will want to play, and a romantic interest between her and the protagonist.

4) Your story has a theme that’s universal—that we all care about.

5) Your story is set in the United States, or at least has an American lead.

6) Your story is CONTEMPORARY, meaning set after 2000.

7) Your novel has a clear three-act structure, with an immediately irresistible opening and involving first act, a second act filled with twists and unexpected turns, and a conclusive, satisfying, and happy ending.

8) Your story is constructed as much as possible in scenes, which are the units of drama.

9) Your story has humor that arises from its dramatic situations.

10) Your story is a page-turner, filled with as much action as dialogue and reflection.

None of these guidelines—which are descriptive observations of what gets picked up for filmmaking rather than prescriptive rules—guarantees your success, of course. But they stack the cards in your favor. By the way, they also increase your chances for success in the book marketplace as well.

Story Merchant Ken Atchity not only produces movies but also provides strategic career coaching for writers at all levels. You can reach him at