Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Belmont Diary: Rough draft

I did it. I finished my rough draft of my Belmont mystery in--let's see now--42 days. And that includes five days I took off for trips to Williams, AZ (home of the world's largest Route 66 sign) and San Diego.

I'm pretty sure that's a record for me. But I managed to pull it off for a couple of reasons.

One, I knew exactly what the teachers and students were looking for in terms of setting and theme. And two, I didn't have the luxury (or temptation, perhaps) of endlessly toying around my words. I had to keep moving forward.

I still have a ton of work ahead of me. My rough drafts are really rough. And by that I mean I'd rather get a root canal without anesthetic than let anyone see them. The characters aren't all over the map. The dialogue is clunky. The plot is riddled with holes.

But the basic story is there, and that's what counts.

The script came in at an even 80 pages. That means it should run about 80 to 90 minutes, which is exactly what the school is looking for. The only problem is that the acts are uneven. Act One comes in at a bloated 56 pages, Act Two a too slim 24. My first order of business is to make those a little more even.

The other thing is the distribution of line counts. I was happy to find that the main character, a flighty, self-absorbed socialite named Pansy, had 163 lines--much less than the 350 that the main characters in The Butler Did It! and Lights! Camera! Murder! had. And not easy to do in a mystery, where you typically have one character leading the investigation of the murder (Pansy does here).

But it's necessary if I want the play to have a life after Belmont. My publisher recently told me that a play will often struggle to find productions if it has one big part and lots of small parts. What theater teachers are looking for is an even distribution of parts or at least a healthy mixture of big, medium and small parts--something I've vowed to make happen from here on out.

Yep, there's a lot of work to do. And only 64 days to do it in (the final draft is due October 1).

But the hard part is done. The rest is all revision, and I love doing that stuff.

Time to get back to... play.

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