From Screenplays to Novels: Behind the Scenes with T.R. Guest

Uncover the secrets to resilience & motivation in this interview with writer T.R. Guest

I’m delighted to share an exclusive interview with Tim Guest, a talented novelist, screenwriter, and playwright who has gracefully navigated the transition from screenwriting to novel writing. Tim’s journey is inspiring—but it’s also a testament to the resilience and passion that fuels all of us in our creative endeavours. I hope you enjoy it. 

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty, can you start by giving us a quick intro? Who are you and what are you working on?

I’m a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. I’ve been writing for a fairly long time now, and I write as TR Guest as another writer (now sadly deceased) has the same name as me – Tim Guest. At the moment, I’m working on a novel (now on its second rewrite) and am also editing a screenplay, which will hopefully go into production soon.

T. R. Guest photo by Julia Hawkins

We met on a Screenwriting MA some years ago. But lately, you’ve shifted into novel writing. What triggered that decision? How has the transition been for you so far?

So I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but for reasons I can no longer remember, I decided to go into screenwriting instead. I’ve had work optioned in the past, and currently have something optioned, but I realised that screenwriting is incredibly tough to break into – and even when you do, there’s no guarantee you’ll be continuously employed.

I also realised that even if you’re a successful screenwriter, most people will have no idea who you are. Only very few screenwriters are known – for most films it’s only the stars and (sometimes) the director that get any recognition. In TV, it’s mainly just the cast. There are only a handful of well-known TV writers like Sally Wainwright or Russell T. Davies.

With screenwriting, you need to assemble a huge team of people and a large amount of money and a willing broadcast channel or studio to make anything happen – and you also need a lot of luck. And even when something is made, there’s no guarantee it’ll be any good or that it will resemble what you first wrote. And it can take many, many years.

I got an agent years ago on the strength of a rom-com I wrote, so I decided to rewrite it as a novel. I’ve fallen in love with novel-writing as you can obviously go inside the characters’ heads, and there’s no budgetary limit, and as a writer, you get to express yourself in a much clearer way.

I have a fairly distinctive voice as a writer (or so I’ve been told!), and I found that writing prose makes the most of that. I have complete control over the book, which means I can do exactly what I want with it. Whether or not anyone will want to read it is another matter!

Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint, as they say. How do you stay motivated and resilient during the ups and downs of the writing process?

Sometimes it’s very hard to stay motivated. If I’m away from it for more than a couple of days I get stuck. Trying to work out timelines etc. of the plot – which character knows what and when can make brain fog descend.

But you have to keep going – even when you feel like you want to give up. If I’m in dire straits with a piece of writing, I make a small change, like a character’s name, and that sometimes gives it another lease of life.

But you have to keep going, at all costs!

Tell us about your approach to getting feedback. At what stage have you sought feedback on your novel drafts?

Has feedback from early readers or critique partners influenced your writing process?

I always get feedback at every stage. Getting feedback at the logline / summary stage is a good way to check that others ‘get’ the story and the world you’re creating.

If the concept is sound, and it’s not too derivative or confusing, then I move on to a fuller outline. I’ll get feedback on that, then make changes, and then start doing a detailed outline of the story.

Because I did my MA in screenwriting, I’ve had the three-act structure beaten into me, so I always follow that.

After a detailed outline (which is really just for me) I start a rough draft. I’ll try to do about 1,000 words a day – sometimes more.

Getting it down on the page is easy – it’s the endless revisions that are hard! Once I have a rough draft, I re-outline it based on the scenes in the draft. This is a good way of seeing where the holes are. Then I make amendments to the new outline and rewrite the entire thing. In my current draft, I don’t think a single word remains from my first draft.

Getting an agent is a big milestone for any writer. Can you tell us about your experience finding representation for your writing? What steps did you take to connect with agents?

Have you got any advice to offer writers seeking representation for their work?

I found it quite easy to approach agents. I think the best thing is to do your research, make a spreadsheet of the agents you want to contact, and then make personalized approaches in batches of 4 or 5.

The truth is you probably won’t hear back from most of them – especially if they’re at a bigger firm. You’ll also have a lot of rejections. Rejection is never easy, but paradoxically, I find that if I have lots in a small space of time they seem to hurt less!

If you have any connection to the agent, or any of their clients or something they’ve worked on previously it’s good to mention that. My first agent was with a very big agency, and it didn’t work out.

My current agent is a smaller firm, but I get more personal attention and they’re really friendly and helpful. They also crucially have a book department which is great for me. I’d also recommend having a few projects that are ready to go, and mention any positive (industry) feedback you’ve had.

As you’re nearing completion of your novel, what are your plans for it once it’s finished?

When it’s finished, I’ll send it to my agent, then I’ll probably have some more revisions. After that, I’ll work on the submissions pack – including comparison titles and then it will hopefully go out to publishers.

I’m going to make a list of the imprints I’d particularly like to approach, so I’ll go through that with my agent.

Then I will pray/gnash my teeth / bite my fingernails while I wait to hear back.

Finally, where can readers find you online to stay updated on your writing journey and connect with you? Do you have a website, social media profiles, or any other platforms where they can follow along and support your work?

So the best place is my Linktree which has all my links!

Thank you so much for sharing your insights, Tim. Best of luck with the novel! 

I hope you have gleaned some useful insights from Tim’s inspiring journey that can apply to your own writing.

It’s clear that the path to writing success is both thrilling and challenging. Every writer’s journey is unique, yet all share common hurdles—whether it’s crafting that first draft or navigating the publishing or production maze.

That’s where I come in.

As your writing coach, I’m here to guide you through every step of your writing journey.

I focus on building robust writing habits, providing accountability, and setting achievable deadlines that keep you progressing towards your goals.

Writing isn’t just about sticking to a schedule—it’s about the heart and soul you pour into your words.

I understand the psychological hurdles writers face daily. Struggles with self-belief, battling the inner critic, and fostering self-confidence are all areas where I can offer substantial support.

Through one-on-one coaching, I’ll help you strengthen not just your writing skills, but also your writer’s spirit.

If Tim’s story has inspired you, and you’re ready to take your writing to the next level, I’d love to help.

Whether you’re drafting your debut novel, polishing a screenplay, or figuring out how to get your work out there, you don’t have to do it alone.

Let’s work together to bring your unique stories to life and silence those doubts.

Ready to transform your writing and conquer your goals?

Visit Pick Up Your Pen or contact me directly to book a free consultation call.

To your writing success,

Katy x

With Katy’s support I stopped being someone with the pipe dream of “one day writing a screenplay” and became someone who “has actually finished a screenplay”. A minor miracle. Katy’s approach is unfailingly supportive and pragmatic. I always looked forward to our conversations because I knew she would cheer me up and help me overcome my blocks and barriers.

Olly Rowe, screenwriter

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