Tag Archives: screenplay

Life After Gabby

The completion of the Gabby Wells storyline will take me some time.  A couple of years.  Not including the time it took to convert screenplays into novels that have since been tossed, just getting the novellas written, edited and published will probably take a year in total.

We’ll release the novellas, one at at time, every three months.  That will give me a year to write as many of the Gabby Wells novels as I can, and we plan to release those every three to six months, depending on how fast I can write them.  If I could have all of those novels written by the time the first novella is released, that would be great.  That’s a lot of words in a short period of time, but that’s the goal.

But, I do plan a writing life after Gabby Wells.

Gabby-HeaderUp until my adventures in novel writing, I expressed my creative storytelling through screenplays.  I did that for over 20 years and many of those stories I plan to turn into novels.

The first non-Gabby story I will probably write is based on a screenplay I wrote called Redemption.  It’s a horror story and my wife’s favorite thing I’ve ever written.  I plan on that being the first in another series of books that involves a nun and modern takes on horror themes.

Plus, there are non-series stories I’d like to tell too.  I have another screenplay called Martyrs that I would love to turn into a novel.  It involves a young girl stuck at her father’s office as it is overrun by terrorists.  And a novella from a screenplay called Forgiven, about a young woman driving across the country who happens stop at a gas station while it’s in the process of getting held up.

And there’s more.  A lot more.  Many, many stories.

I just hope I have time to write them all.

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I’m in a funk.  A writing funk.

I’ve been working on my first novel for a long time.  A LONG time.  Not always in novel form, but the story itself has been in my life everyday for about four years.

Four years.

First as a screenplay idea.  Then as a TV script idea.  And now as a novel idea.  It’s taken so long because it is through this process that I have been teaching myself how to write a novel.  No easy task.  And, apparently, not a fast process, either.

I’m at the point in the writing/rewriting process that I am finding it hard to read a draft and see the story in front of me anymore.  I know it too well.  I’ve re-written it too many times in too many formats that it’s become matrixed into my brain (you know, where they download how to fly a helicopter into your noggin and suddenly you know everything there is to know about flying helicopters).  I read what I think is there instead of what is actually on the page.

I’ve reached a saturation point.

rewrite-specsSo, I’ve brought in some outside assistance at this point to help me finalize this baby.  Readers, editors and the like.  Objectivity and brutal honesty is what I’m looking for.  I don’t care what has to change, as long as it makes the story better.  I am not wed to any character or event with any sort of emotional tie that wouldn’t keep me from killing them off if it would make a more effective novel.  And I think that’s the right approach.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to release the novel until it can be the best story possible.  Michael Hyatt, in his great book called Platform, calls it releasing a Wow product.  It’s not about being a perfectionist (because I am anything but), it is about not settling.  If you know it could be better then make it better until its a Wow product.

So, I’ll keep chugging along.

I’m not at Wow yet.  I’m probably at Cool or Interesting or Huh?

Hopefully I’ll soon leave this funk and move onto Woohoo when the final draft is finished.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – An Epic Failure of Adaptation

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a perfect storm of predictability.

Hobbit01If you decide to adapt a single novel into a movie trilogy, the middle story, the bridge, is the hardest one to pull off successfully.

Having the middle story as part of a prequel makes the project a recipe for failure with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as the main course.

In the film, a group of dwarfs continue their quest, heading to an abandoned dwarf kingdom hidden under a mountain that contains a massive collection of gold and jewels.  The kingdom is now home to a huge, overly-chatty dragon.

On their quest, they cross paths with a bunch of big spiders, angry elfs, and a hunky seaman.

Their goal is to get a precious stone that the dwarf leader can use to bring the fractured dwarf tribes back together and they need the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, to retrieve it.


There were so many problems with this film, its hard to believe it made it into production.  Lets go over a few:

1) It’s a prequel.  Most viewers will have read/watched the Lord of the Rings prior to watching this film, which means they know the following:

  • The tension between the elfs and the dwarfs gets resolved and end up working together.
  • Gandalf is never in danger, since he leads the efforts in Rings.
  • Bilbo is never in danger, since he’s in Rings too.

So, three major points of conflict or suspense are diffused.

2) It’s the middle film of a single quest.

  • Since the trilogy is really a single quest, you know they make it.  You never doubt they will survive the journey.

Which means another major point of suspense is lost.

And there are other problems.


3) The bad guys are computer generated:

  • Our brains react differently when two people are involved in a stunt than when two computer characters are.  The reason?  Danger.  It’s why people love car races or watching football.  The risk is real.  This is the same reasons we love amazing stunts by real people in real places.  Your brain can’t imagine how they pulled it off.
  • When characters are fighting computer generated bad guys, your brain never worries about them, never tries to figure out how they survived.  Your brain becomes passive.  A passive audience is a films worst enemy.
  • In Rings, the hand-to-hand combat scenes were with real people in make-up (along with some computer generated augmentation for scope and effect).  In The Hobbit, the bad guys are 100% fake, which makes their interaction with real actors 100% ineffective.


4) Dragon TMI:

  • In the story we learn this dragon can only be killed by a certain type of arrow, which can penetrate his skin.  Legend had it that the dragon was nicked by one of these arrows and it knocked off a couple of scales, making him vulnerable.
  • Near the end of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug they show two things they shouldn’t have.
    1) the dragon does, indeed, have a few scales missing.
    2) there is one super arrow left.
  • So, what does this tell me?  It tells me the dragon gets killed by that arrow.  And, as luck would have it, this dragon killing won’t happen in this movie, but in film #3.
  • Which means, The Hobbit not only destroyed suspenseful moments in this film, they’ve actually undermined suspenseful moments in the NEXT ONE!


All that being said, you can save a middle film of a trilogy if you leave the audience satisfied by surprising them at the end.

  • Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back – “I am your father.”  Enough said.
  • Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The games were a ruse for a rebellion.

The Hobbit’s ending wasn’t surprising at all.  Dragon gets loose and heads to a nearby town, the one with the super arrow.  Gee, I’ll talk about for as long as it takes my theater seat to return to its upright position.

But, if you can’t surprise anyone with the ending, then maybe you could surprise the audience by killing off one of the heroes.  Someone important, preferably.  But, no, EVERYONE survives this movie.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a shining example of a series of bad decisions made by Hollywood just so they could make money.

1) make a prequel because the Rings made serious $.
2) turn the one Hobbit tale into a trilogy to make serious $.

It shouldn’t surprise us that Hollywood wants to use The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to make more money.  Why should it?  After all, nothing else in the movie is surprising either.

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Podcast 04 – Screenplay to Novel Adaptation

Today’s podcast discusses some tips on how to adapt a screenplay into a novel.

Running Time: 12:11

Here are a few steps to consider when adapting a screenplay to a novel.

Step 1) Overview.  Look at the story from a 30,000 foot level.  Sketch out the basics of the plot (beginning, middle and end).  Also, write down the main protagonist’s character arc to identify where the character starts and ends up.

Step 2) Characters.  Write down all of the characters in the story in order of importance and synopsize their purpose in the story and their growth arc.

Step 3) Story Detail.  Synopsize each scene into the following basic information:

– Where does it take place?
– Which character(s) is in the scene?
– What is the conflict?
– What information is relayed?

Step 4) Gap Opportunities.  Identify the areas in the story that could use elaboration or character relationships that need to be augmented and explored further.

Step 5) Outline.  Now that all of the prep-work is done, create an outline for your novel where you take all of the information and reorganize it to make the most effective novel possible.

Step 6) Get to  Work. Understanding the expectations of your audience, write, write and rewrite until you’ve written a novel with which you are happy.

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a screenwriter.

I wrote screenplays, won some awards, had some optioned and a few produced. One of those screenplays I wrote at the request of a friend of mine, Jenni Gold. I recently mentioned Jenni in a post about her work on the documentary Cinemability.

Back in the last 90’s, Jenni, ever the pragmatic filmmaker, had a great idea.  We were both living in Florida at the time and Hollywood was testing out to see if Orlando could be Hollywood-East.  The work in Florida was seasonal and, because of the heat, film making slowed down during the summer.

Jenni thought she could get the Hollywood level stunt talent in the area for cheap during the slow season.  And she was right.  So, she secured financing for an insanely low budget and came up with an idea about an action film about an injured CIA Agent who uncovers a nasty plot and uses other discarded government thugs to form a team and save the day.

rwaShe asked me if I would write the script, so I took her original idea and wrote the screenplay for Ready, Willing & Able.

The writing process was very interesting.  As Jenni gathered more resources, she would call and say:

  • “We have access to a small plane.  Can you add that in there?”
  • “I was able to get access to the Universal lot.  They have an exterior cafe set.  Can you write that in?”
  • “A guy offered to let us use his two wave runners.  Can you write in a chase sequence?”

It was kind of backwards to fit the changing resource availability into the script instead of writing the story and then finding the resources, but I loved the challenge.  I figured I had to dedicate 75% of the story to action, leaving 25% for character.  So, any character development I wanted to include in the story had to be quick and simple.

The film was shot in Orlando (I got to visit the set) and I got meet the actors.  (BTW – one of the actors, Isaac, went on to have a large supporting role as one of the ghost crew in Pirates of the Caribbean).  RWA won an award at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, but never got full domestic distribution.

It did, however, get distribution overseas.  Apparently, even today, it does very well in Russia and Italy.

The fun part about this process is, some 16 years later, I still receive a small residual check from the Writers Guild of America.  The last one I got was about five years ago.  Yesterday, in my mailbox, another one appeared.


So, it looks like Ready, Willing & Able is not only still being shown overseas, but its still making enough money to throw me a small check every half decade.

Who would have thunk it.

I hope my future work is as generous as the small script I wrote over 16 years ago.

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It Only Took Sixty-Three Drafts to Learn How to Write

Writing can be a painful experience.

I spent the majority of my life around, involved in and pursuing a life in film.  I studied it, I performed in it, I wrote for it, I directed it and I loved it.  Some of my work made it to Hollywood, but most was of the independent nature.

The combination of my faith and my passion for film led to the creation of Sonlight Pictures, where the character of Gabby Wells first emerged.

When I decided to attempt to convert the first season of television scripts about Gabby Wells into the first novel in the series, I had virtually zero training in writing novels.  My experience over the last 20 years revolved solely and completely around screenplays.

But I like a challenge.  And, I figured, worst case scenario, my novel sucks but I’m a better writer for having tried.

rewrite-redpenThe first few drafts of the first Gabby Wells novel were simply conversion pieces, taking the scripts and morphing them into novel form, finding the many gaps that needed to be filled with character back story, internal drivers and emotional damage.

It wasn’t until about draft 50 that my daughter said “We actually have a novel now.”

Fifty drafts.  I didn’t expect the learning curve to be that steep.

Around draft 60 I had exhausted all I could muster in making this novel work.  It was as good as it was gonna get considering my skill level at the time.


That is until my daughter suggested something rather drastic.

I was working on converting the second season of television scripts into the second novel and was not looking forward to repeating the daunting task of trying to master a new writing style while converting my material from my old writing style.  It’s just a tough haul.

So, after hearing me complain about the impending frustration, she suggested that I forgo everything I had done before and start writing the second novel from scratch.  I know the story, just tell it as the writer I am now, not the writer I was when I wrote the screenplay.

To my amazement, it worked.  The first chapter was smooth and interesting and funny and draws you in.  I must say, it’s pretty dang good.

It was so good, in fact, that it made me realize something horrible.

I had to do the same thing with the first novel.  After 63 drafts, I had to scrap it and write it all over again, from scratch.

Sure, I’ll be able to pilfer quite a bit of the more polished sections of the text from draft 63, but the feel, the mood, the style, the approach will be completely different.

I’m not happy about it.  From concept to screenplay to novel, I’ve been living/writing this story repeatedly for almost five years.  I want to be done in the worst way.

But, not until its as good as I can make it and, unfortunately, I can make it better.

At least one for one more draft.

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Podcast 03 – Lynne Hansen

Lynne Hansen has participated in just about every facet of the publishing industry.  From writing to editing to marketing to book design, she has seen and done it all.  In this podcast we get insight into the many paths her career has taken and gain valuable insights on what makes a powerful and effective book cover design.


Here is an example of Lynne’s great book cover design work:


Take a listen and enjoy the show.

Links Mentioned in the Show:

Lynne Hansen Design

Jeff Strand

Tampa Theatre

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Writing Tips

I’ve been writing in one form or another for almost 30 years.  I’d like to share some tips that I use to help me get from the blank page to a finished story.

  1. Writers Write: Writers are compelled to write.  So, if you want to be a writer, write. I’ve come across a lot of people who like the idea of being a writer, but rarely have the discipline it be one.  It’s the difference between the people who want to lose weight and those that actually do.  Be a writer.
  2. Experiment: Approach writing as an experiment.  Have a goal and give it a shot.  This alleviates the pressure of being perfect.  If the experiment turns ugly, that’s okay.  You’ll be a better writer for having tried and learning what not to do allows you to something great later on.
  3. Know the End:  Some people write intuitively and see where the story takes them, but I never start a project without knowing how it ends.  Everything you write should be in service to the ending. If you go down creative tangents, make sure they augment the end.  The more satisfying the end, the more it will resonate with the reader after they’re done.
  4. Writers Block: I have found that I get writers block when I don’t know where the story is going.  I’ve either written myself into a corner or went down a direction that led to a dead end.  Either way, I need a GPS to get me back on track.  To get passed this, my GPS reminds me…
  5. Anything Can Happen:  Whenever I get stuck, I always remember the phrase “anything can happen.”  This frees me from whatever preconceived ideas that are keeping me from moving forward and allows me to indulge in an infinite number of “what ifs.”  Some of the best plot twists I’ve ever devised came from telling myself that “anything can happen.”
  6. Finish the 1st Draft: The hardest draft of any project is the first one.  “Writing is Rewriting” so know you have numerous rewrites in your future.  Don’t worry about making the first draft perfect.  It won’t be.  Ever.  Just get the story out of your head and onto the paper.  You can’t fix a blank page.  You can always fix a first draft.
  7. Close Enough:  If you can’t find the right word, don’t let it stop you. To keep momentum going I simply put the word in question in parenthesis and move on.  For example, I could write “The dog ran up to the porch (breathing quickly).” The next time I edit it, I see the parenthesis and know what I meant to say, replacing it with the word I originally wanted to use; “The dog ran up to the porch panting.”  Inspiration is a rare event.  Don’t let a word here or there stop you from getting it from your head to the paper.

Those are a few tips I’ve learned over time to help me get my thoughts onto paper.  Please share any tips you may have in the comments section.

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Gabby Wells Trailer

One of the benefits of having worked in the entertainment industry in a variety of different positions is knowing how to create and edit a trailer.


After mulling numerous ways to use a trailer to promote the first Gabby Wells book, we decided to use the hand-held camera/docu-drama approach. This should give it a sense of urgency and realistic look.


We plan on shooting the trailer in a few months, when the weather gets a little cooler. Since it’s in the 90s and feels like a billion degrees down here in Florida, waiting a month or so is definitely the right decision.

We’ll share the script and behind-the-scenes pics and videos on the trailer creation when we get to that part of the process.

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