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.
The Final Third
Last week I started on the final third in the novelization of SOS United States. At this point, I don’t see anything getting in the way of my goal to complete a draft by the end of March.
I will say turning a screenplay into a novel, isn’t as easy as it sounds. In a screenplay the entire process is visual. Of course, there are numerous methods in cinema to ascertain what a character is thinking. But in a novel, it can be described in detail along with their surroundings. When I immerse myself in these fictional worlds, I want the audience to experience what I’m thinking. Case in point, the bunker the President and Prime Minister find themselves in. Both the screenplay and novel were inspired by this real-world property in the Adirondacks.
Writing this novel has been a wonderful exercise to really understand the story, the characters and the world they live in. While I still believe the screenplay holds its own, the novelization of the story has grown both in character development and world building. Had the screenplay not done well in the festival circuit, I would probably be revisiting it a bit. But as it did win a variety of awards, I don’t want to tinker with it beyond contemporary updates to technology, etc. There is such a thing in this creative writing process as over analysis and self-doubt. It’s taken some time to learn as a writer, but at some point, you just need to literally put the idea to bed as a completed screenplay or book.
I wrote the screenplay for SOS United States nearly a decade ago. Unlike the screenplays and films in the First World Universe or Justice Is Mind and the sequel In Mind We Trust, SOS United States was a standalone. I’m not exactly sure where the original idea came from, but it does combine my interest in espionage, spies and intrigue in governments and multi-national corporations. I look forward to the day when the book and movie are released to the world.
Speaking of the First World Universe, I’m delighted to report that First Signal has garnered over 1.3 million views on YouTube! The film continues to spark all kinds of conversations on the VOD platforms and social media channels. While the range of interest (or non-interest) is all over the place, the bottom line is that nearly two years after its release, First Signal is still being talked about. Whether viewers love it, hate it or fall somewhere in between, all a filmmaker (or author) can hope for, is that the work is talked about.
I believe part of the driving force behind First Signal is the continuous reporting on UFOs, UAPs, mystery balloons and other atmospheric and aerospace anomalies, that are crossing every news service and social media platform. It also doesn’t hurt that the U.S. Department of Defense is publicly involved in the identification of this ‘phenomena’ and have set up an internal office to address it. Who knows, maybe elements of First Signal are true!
In closing, I took some time this week to revisit my first feature film Justice Is Mind. I was preparing some writing samples for a presentation and came across a variety of things linked with this project. When I found the filmmaking seminar presentation I did on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth in 2014, it brought a smile to my face. I was reminded about the challenges I had to get Justice Is Mind off the ground and then realized that if you work hard enough, stay focused and stay determined anything is possible.
“The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.” – George Santayana