RIP was originally planned as a television series, as I’ve previously mentioned.
I had already written about four and a half TV episodes, some more polished than others. The first episode, “Hi, I Kill Dead People,” became the first e-book, “Touch.”
Having the TV scripts gave me a head-start, but plenty of work remained. When you write a script, you’re not supposed to try to direct it. Don’t choreograph every last little bit of action. Don’t tell the actors exactly what to do. Describe a setting in a sentence, not a paragraph and certainly not paragraphs. You also need to avoid figurative language. The action should only describe what we’ll see on the screen—don’t put some metaphorical image in the reader’s mind that makes them think of something else entirely. This does, however, give you more time to focus on getting the dialogue and story structure right.
So when I started converting the first RIP to a novelette, I had the dialogue and structure ready to go, to a large extent. I made changes, of course. There’s always room for improvement, especially when you’re adapting something you haven’t looked at in a couple of years. In fact, the ability to get in the characters’ heads allowed me to trim some dialogue, which cleaned up the overall product.
The hardest part was filling in the description around the dialogue, but as I did, I discovered new depth to the characters. I knew I couldn’t rely on actors to develop the body language, for example, so I had to figure it all out on my own, and I learned new things about them and their world. What initially seemed daunting turned out to be enlightening.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using the TV script format as your first draft (though it doesn’t hurt to experiment and try something different once in a while, even inadvertently). I’m using all my pre-existing content in the upcoming RIP vol. 1 Choices, which will feature the first four novelettes and a short story. The first two episodes follow their script versions pretty closely, but the second two diverge considerably, though some dialogue exchanges remain. Volume 2 will continue the novelette format, but I’ll write it as a book from the start.
There was one TV episode I had written more than half of, and I started converting it to a novelette, but I decided it put too much focus on new characters we might never see again. That would’ve been fine for episodic television, but the books need to concentrate on Rip, Serissa, and Kalli. So I scrapped most of that one and reduced it to a short story interlude.
And that brings me to a major plus of bringing the television structure to books (specifically the season-long arc TV structure, not the procedural structure). I find it to be a good sprawl deterrent. It helps keep me focused on what’s important. It breaks the overall arc into 13,000-word chunks. Each chunk has its own beginning, middle, and end, but they still build on each other to form a greater whole.
I stumbled into this experiment by accident, but it’s been interesting. Writing for different mediums has improved my overall writing, as it’s gotten me to focus on different elements. But if I ever write another teleplay, I’ll need to remind myself to just say no to figurative description and inner monologues.