Most authors would like to see their work adapted for the big (or small) screen, but the path from here to there is at best unfamiliar—and can seem incomprehensible. Some bestsellers are made into movies, others ignored. Obscure books, short stories, and magazine articles are blessed by Hollywood’s magic, while thousands of screenplays are turned away. What sense does that make? Is there no rhyme or reason here?

Well, yes, actually. But it’s hard to make out when—like most writers—you’re on the outside looking in. The twelve chapters that follow will take you through the looking glass and make some sense of the enigma that is the Hollywood adaptation process. More importantly, it will explain why some books are made into movies while others are not, and what you can do to make your story more attractive to filmmakers. Read more…


As mentioned in Part One, writing mechanics are dull, but essential—like checking the oil and brake fluid when you’d rather be cruising down the coast. You can’t do one without keeping an eye on the other. So let’s take a look at another batch of common mechanical errors…


Apostrophes are often misused. It’s hard to tell whether this results from inattention or misunderstanding, but here’s the rule: with few exceptions, apostrophes signify contractions and possessives—and nothing else.

Contractions are shortened words: that’s for that is, wouldn’t for would not, could’ve for could have, you’re for you are, that sort of thing. By far the most troublesome word in this category is it’s, a shortening of it is. The confusion likely stems from the fact that, unlike other contractions, it’s looks like a possessive.Read more…


“Mechanical errors” have to do with the nuts and bolts of writing. If concept is your flashy car, plot the engine, characters the driver and passengers—then story mechanics are the fasteners holding your engine together. They’re not exciting, glitzy, or personable, and no one pays them any mind. Until something goes wrong.

That’s when you hear an annoying clank, somewhere under the hood. Soon, it becomes difficult to hear the passengers or enjoy the scenery. Before too long, that clank-clank-clank is all you can think about. And if someone doesn’t climb under the hood and fix the damned thing, it will eventually stop your engine.

Let’s look at some common mechanical errors. Read more…



The original MYSAM (Make Your Story A Movie) book was traditionally published by Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin in 2012. What you’re reading now is a sort of v1.5—updated in 2019 and placed (free) on the website. MYSAM v2.0 will be published in 2020, with new contributions from authors, screenwriters, producers, directors and others not found in previous versions (including this one). I’ll also be covering digital/streaming and series, which are far more important now than they were in 2012. This version 1.5 may go offline when v2.0 appears. Start reading the free book now…


And the winner is…the adaptation (again). The box office, of course, has long been ruled by adaptations; 80% of the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time are based on other things. (Top 100 Adaptations list here.) Oscar contenders (and winners) from 2001-2019 are also mostly adaptations—but this year, things have gone through the roof, with 97% (96.969%, to be precise) of Big Five nominees—and 100% of Big Five wins—going to adaptations or work on adaptations.

The “Big Five” categories are Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Writing. Read more…


Page Update: The top-100 adaptations as of February 23, 2019: Film titles, box office rankings, source materials, it’s all here.

In the next post: Adaptations Sweep 2019 Oscars with adaptations accounting for 97% of “Big Five” nominations (Best Picture, Best Writing (Adapted and Original Screenplays), Best Directing, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Actress in a Leading Role. A 100% winners sweep seems likely.


We’re Back

by John Robert Marlow

We’re back. Things have been slow around here lately, but that’s about to change. Here are some of the things coming your way, starting in February 2019…

  • Top 100 Highest-Grossing Movie Adaptations (update)
  • 2019 Oscar adaptation coverage
  • Make Your Story A Movie book starts publishing right here—free
  • Craft-focused articles on fiction and nonfiction
  • Interviews with authors, screenwriters, directors, producers and more
  • New adaptation and industry-related links section
  • MYSAM blog goes weekly
  • An email list with advance and exclusive subscriber-only content. (sign up for the MYSAM newsletter here).


Bestselling Doctor / Author Tess Gerritsen (Extreme Interview)

by John Robert Marlow
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Tess Gerritsen is a Stanford-educated physician-turned-author whose last 18 books have hit the bestseller lists that matter. After winning first place in a fiction writing contest, she decided to try her hand at novels. Starting with romantic thrillers and romantic suspense, she switched to (mostly) medical and crime thrillers in 1996, and has sold more than 30 million books in 40 languages. Tess has received the Nero Wolfe Award, the Rita Award, and the Robert B. Parker Award. She’s also written screenplays and composed music.

Best known for her Rizzoli & Isles series (which became a TV series on TNT), she also wrote Gravity, and the screenplays for Adrift (a CBS Movie of the Week), Island Zero (a self-financed horror film to be released in 2018), and a documentary called “Pig” (still in production). Publishers Weekly calls her the “medical suspense queen,” while Stephen King says she’s “better than Palmer, better than Cook…yes, even better than Michael Crichton.” Read more…

Adaptations Rule Oscars 2000-2018

by John Robert Marlow

AND THE WINNER IS… The adaptation. Movies based on other things have dominated the Academy Awards for decades. More recently (2000-2018), well over half of all “Big Five” Academy Awards have gone to adaptations. (Click here for a definition of “adaptation”.)

The “Big Five” categories are Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Writing. The Best Writing category actually consists of two subcategories: Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay—though as we’ll see, many “original” screenplays (and, therefore, the movies based on them) are actually adaptations. Read more…

MYSAM Blog Reloaded

by John Robert Marlow
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For reasons which shall remain enigmatic, the Make Your Story A Movie blog has been on hiatus. What better time than the Oscars to return to our regularly-scheduled blog, already in progress… .