I’m always fascinated by how authors approach the rewrite process, but there’s one type of project I’ve never considered before: turning a script into a book. When I was researching SEO tags for this post, I discovered that lots of people search for phrases like “how to turn a script into a novel.” Well, author D.G. Driver has valuable tips for you and she shares them in the below Behind the Rewrite. D.G. will take you behind the scenes of revising her script for Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance into book form. That’s right. It wasn’t just any script. It was a script for a musical! I’m sure you’ll find this post as intriguing as I did.
In addition to being a writer, I’m also an actress and theater director here in Nashville. Last year, when all the theaters in town closed, lots of theater types were creating virtual ways to do shows. I got a crazy idea to combine my novel writing skills with my love of musical theater and decided to write a story that featured songs, hire a cast to record it, and release it as a full cast audiobook called Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance.
Only there was a hitch. In order to have it available on Audible, there had to be a corresponding book. Well, even though the narration in the book is novelesque, I wrote Songwriter Night in script format. I had to revise and reformat the whole manuscript. The narration and dialogue remain 95 percent the same, but there were some definite snags that I want to share with you that makes up that other 5 percent. Here’s how I handled them and what I learned.
How To Write The Song Lyrics
There are twelve songs in Songwriter Night. Most of these have the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure typical of Country music. It felt tedious to have so much repetition of lyrics in the book version. Also, the reader can’t hear the songs like in the audiobook version, so I had to figure out how to help the reader imagine what the songs sound like. Here is an example of how I did this for one of the songs.
In this scene, Aiden, a former member of the group who’s hit the big time, has come back to show off one of his new songs, and he’s brought backup singers to sing it with him.
The three of them sing the chorus again. Instead of a bridge, the song repeats the last half of the verse, similar to the way Lyle had written his song.
“You took her on one date, and I took her to prom.”
She didn’t stick with either of us very long.
What do you say to finally letting that rest?
Clink my beer and let’s reminisce.”
A slightly longer hold on the chord builds up to the final chorus, where Aiden embellishes the notes. Trish wonders if a key change might have been effective here, but she doesn’t think it’s her place to suggest it. Aiden repeats the final line of the chorus with a nice run on ‘old days’ and a chord change to emphasize it. The girls end the song with some pretty ‘oohs’ that remind her of songs from another era. Nice choice.
Action In Narration Versus Dialogue Tags
One real plus to writing a script is that I don’t have to write “He said/she said” dialogue tags at all. With this being a full cast recording, all the actors are played by different people with distinct voices. I didn’t need to write who said what. Personally, I love books where instead of using tags, the author uses action from the character to denote who is speaking. I did this a lot more for this project than my other works. It needed a little revision from the way it looked in a script to what it needed to be for a book, though.
Here’s an example from the audiobook script:
NARRATOR: Maybe she should sing a cappella. Does anyone do that here?
TRISH: Is there anything to drink?
LYLE: Yeah. What do you want?
NARRATOR: Lyle leaps out of his chair before Trish even thinks about standing and getting the drink for herself. She looks past him at the assortment on the counter.
TRISH: Water will be fine. Thank you.
LYLE: Happy to be of service.
NARRATOR: He hands her the water, and their fingers overlap for a moment. His fingertips are callused from playing guitar, and they scratch her knuckles ever so slightly as he whisks his hand away. She opens the bottle and puts it to her mouth, hoping he won’t see her blushing.
Now, here’s the same scene reformatted for the book.
Maybe she should sing a cappella. Does anyone do that here?
“Is there anything to drink?” she asks.
“Yeah. What do you want?” Lyle leaps out of his chair before Trish even thinks about standing and getting the drink for herself. She looks past him at the assortment on the counter.
“Water will be fine. Thank you.”
“Happy to be of service.”
He hands her the water, and their fingers overlap for a moment. His fingertips are callused from playing guitar, and they scratch her knuckles ever so slightly as he whisks his hand away. She opens the bottle and puts it to her mouth, hoping he won’t see her blushing.
Adding Dialogue Tags
So, I couldn’t get away completely with narration guiding the reader toward who is speaking, especially in scenes where there are more than two people having a conversation. I definitely had to use dialogue tags. I will tell you, when your main job is to go through your manuscript and tag dialogue, it gets awfully repetitive writing “he says” and “she says” over and over. You become intensely aware of how often you’re writing that. On the other, hand, you don’t want your tags to be too all over the place or filled with unnecessary adverbs. Then it gets annoying.
Here’s a group scene from the original script:
NARRATOR: Tammy huffs instead of answers. George raises an eyebrow to acknowledge that he won that round. The rest of the group is frozen in uncomfortable silence.
NEIL: So, uh, are we continuing or not?
GEORGE: Yeah, let’s go on.
NARRATOR: George strums his guitar, and Neil begins to play.
TAMMY: You’re all going to sit here and let him embarrass me like this.
ROY: It sounds like a good song. A real tears in my beer heartbreaker.
ODETTA: I’m interested to hear how the rest of it goes. Sad songs are the clay that Country music builds with.
NARRATOR: George looks at Lyle who gives him an approving nod.
TAMMY: I’d like to point out that the middle part – the chorus? That’s mine. I wrote that.
GEORGE: You did not.
TAMMY: I did.
And here’s the novelized version. Note the variety in the tags:
After a moment, Neil asks cautiously, “So, uh, are we continuing or not?”
“Yeah, let’s go on.” George strums his guitar, and Neil begins to play.
Tammy says to the group, “You’re all going to sit here and let him embarrass me like this?”
The music stops again.
“It sounds like a good song,” Roy responds. “A real tears-in-my-beer heartbreaker.”
Odetta agrees, “I’m interested to hear how the rest of it goes. Sad songs are the clay that Country music builds with.”
George looks at Lyle who gives him an approving nod.
Tammy’s not done yet.
“I’d like to point out that the middle part – the chorus? That’s mine. I wrote that.”
“You did not,” George says.
“I did.” She sings a cappella to a tune very similar to the chorus of George’s song.
When I write first drafts, it is sometimes the dialogue tags that cause me to trip up or hit a block. I want to keep going with the action and dialogue and not waste time figuring out how to show who is saying what. Writing in script format first and then going back through the manuscript to adapt it to book format helped make this a more streamlined process. I may try this again with other projects.
More About Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance
In this sweet romantic comedy, Lyle and Trish are two aspiring Country music songwriters that meet at a Nashville coffee house. With Trish being new in town, Lyle invites her to his monthly gathering of songwriters to get to know her better. The evening of quirky characters and light-hearted singing is interrupted by the arrival of Aiden Bronson. He’s got a hit song on the radio, and he’s back to show off, stirring up some rivalry while he’s at it. How will Lyle compete against Aiden’s charisma and talent in order to win Trish’s heart?
Buy it in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon. It’s also available as a full cast audiobook recording wherever you like to get your audiobooks and podcasts. Find all those links, hear samples, and meet the cast on D.G.’s website.
More About D.G. Driver
D.G. Driver is a multi-award-winning author of young adult and middle grade books. She primarily writes contemporary fantasy, but she also loves writing realistic fiction and has even dabbled in romance. D.G. lives near Nashville, TN and is a teacher in an inclusive classroom of typically developing and special needs children in an early Intervention program. Visit her on the web at:
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