Last Thursday I finished the first draft of the novelization of SOS United States. At just over 80,000 words, the process of converting a screenplay to a novel has been an interesting, rewarding and challenging experience—but one that I look forward to doing again.
One thing I learned throughout this exercise is that you get much closer to the characters and the world they live in with a book. Instinctively I knew this of course, but it is different when you are the one writing it and exploring the story in this medium. While this first draft largely resembles the script, it did depart from some elements as I felt the story was taking me in some new directions.
As I was approaching the last several pages of the script, I realized I needed to expand the story and give it more gravitas. When I think about it, I believe I kept the original ending in the screenplay tight as I was thinking about the production budget. In outline, the book mirrors the screenplay, but I believe the expanded ending will give the reader a more satisfying conclusion to the story and characters (I hope!).
When I finished the first draft last week, I had to take a break from it for a few days before I started the editing process. Looking back at my notes, I’ve been writing nearly every day since November. To clear my creative slate, I need to step out of that world for a bit. But it’s an exciting time as I now have another project to complete, publish and market.
Speaking of the market, Indie Rights, First Signal’s distributor, sent the 2022 4th quarter reports and royalty payments last weekend. To see First Signal still going strong two years after its release is beyond gratifying.
One thing that is now very clear to me is that First Signal, along with the First World Universe, has a sizable following that wants to see the next installment in the story. Over the course of any given week, we receive encouraging emails and comments across a wide spectrum of demographics.
Market research into any new product, particularly a film, is both time-consuming and expensive. Many independent films are passion projects with any hope of profit a distant thought. But First Signal has proven that it is possible to be both passionate and profitable.
With the warm weather approaching (albeit slowly here in New England), the Audrain Automobile Museum’s Cars & Coffee events in Newport have returned with over twenty events planned for the season. The variety of vehicles and enthusiasm among the enthusiasts make these gatherings a must attend. To learn more about the Audrain’s Car & Coffee events, please visit this link.
Finally, the world witnessed this week SpaceX’s Starship launch. At 400 feet fully stacked, Starship was about 40 stories tall. Watching a literal skyscraper take off from the launch pad to reach the heights it did was a technological feat and marvel all in one. While I was too young to fully appreciate the Apollo Missions, seeing the world’s largest rocket make history was a day mankind will never forget.
As I approach the end of the latest story I’m writing in the First World Universe, I can’t help but feel a wave of emotions. There’s the excitement of course about completing a new story, but then there is that twinge of sadness as it’s coming to an end. As a writer, we live with our characters. From their victories and failures to achievements and disappointments, their world is revealed for all to see.
While the story is new, some of the characters have already been established and brought to life in First Signal. The returning characters in this story are President Colton, General Reager, Major Sampson, Elisabeth Seward and James Griffin. As I saw how each actor brought these characters to life, it has made the writing of their actions and dialogue a bit easier as they are familiar. But in this story, there are numerous new characters with the creation of Kate Cloverton as the star.
Cloverton, a rising journalist for a major American media company, I realized after the first act is a combination of many journalists I have known over the years. While she’s determined to get the story, she exhibits self-doubt. She questions if the work she does really matters. It’s a colleague of hers that puts her back on track. A colleague who has had some limited success in his own career, but then finds that his efforts hit a brick wall.
I have seen the competitive aspects of journalists first-hand. There are those that are methodical in research and interviews with their eye on the long view without coming to a conclusion prematurely. Then there are those that have an idea for a story and will do whatever they need to do to publish their views. I think we can all agree that the latter has taken over the contemporary world of journalism.
But in this story, Cloverton is sent on a journey by an editor that has a mission of his own. While perhaps well meaning, this editor had no idea that Cloverton’s ingenuity, gut instincts and willingness to take risks, would set world governments and an alien presence on Earth on a collision of Biblical proportions. I should have a first draft completed by mid-November.
A couple of weeks ago after I received our first quarterly payment for First Signal from our distributor Indie Rights, I received a couple of messages from their filmmakers on what I did for marketing. After communicating their messages to our distributor, they asked if I would like to publish a case study on how I marketed First Signal. I was happy to do so.
While I don’t think what I do for film marketing is revolutionary, there is one thing I do that I sadly don’t see employed—consistent marketing. Marketing is all about consistency, scheduling and messaging. For me, I simply calendar what I need to do on a weekly basis and stay the course. What I largely do isn’t based on how much cash I spend, but how much time I spend. If spending an hour a day on marketing yields a positive cash flow, I’d say that’s time well spent.