A lot of people think that if you know how to write a script, you can automatically be a writer. The same happens to screenwriters who think they can automatically be writers. I do not embrace this popular opinion and I will explain why.
First of all, to make a difference between a writer and a screenwriter, I will be discussing a bit about the technique to write a script, compared to that of writing a novel. A screenplay is written in present tense. You cannot write it differently. Basically, the main difference between a script and a novel is that in the script we write only what we see and hear… here and now. The script is meant to become a film and in a film we only see and hear what is going on right now. If we change the place or time the action occurs, then it is mandatory to change the scene.
In literature, things are quite different. There are cases when authors opt to write their books in a way that resembles scripts (present tense) but it is not mandatory. A book uses the imagination of the reader in order to represent the described scenes. The writer can express the thoughts and feelings of his characters, whilst the details from books are far more numerous and stylistically superior to those in a script.
In a script there are detailed descriptions of the shots, dialogues, character actions and settings. The script is limited when it comes to words and pages, while a book can be freely structured, with long descriptions and without a preset number of pages (although in current literary industry, we often see limitations when it comes to word counts).
Although the two are separate processes, there is a common point in writing a screenplay and writing a book: Narrative structure. By using one of the well-known structures in storytelling (The Hero’s Journey, Save the Cat, The three-act structure of Robert McKee, etc) both a writer and an author can efficiently build a story.
I was always scared of writing prose, because I never thought I could go from the simplicity of writing a script to the complexity of writing literature. Obviously, just like the main character in a Hero’s journey, I had to face my biggest fear and I realized writing a book wasn’t bad at all.
What do you think? Is it harder to write a script or a novel? Let me know in the comments section and if you want to see how I got to write my first novel after more than 20 years of being a screenwriter, read this article.