Saga of a Screenplay: Two and a Half Drafts

(Continued from part 2.)

We had a story for Nearly a Knight (still known as Smoke and Mirrors at this point) going pretty well. There was still something missing, and we didn’t yet know how everything was going to play out from start to finish, but we were pretty optimistic about it. All that was required was someone writing a first draft.

Enter Script Frenzy 2011. *sniffle* I’m sorry, I need a moment…

(Script Frenzy was discontinued after 2012, sad to say. We miss you!)

Okay, moving on. In case you don’t know what Script Frenzy was (I’m gonna cry here), it was this great little challenge, quite like NaNoWriMo, where you had to write a 100-page screenplay in one month. The month of April, to be precise.

I’d done Script Frenzy in 2009, then taken a break for 2010. I was itching to get back to screenwriting in 2011, and I challenged Rebekah to go for it, too. My script was a contemporary drama called Bellwether, which I may tell you about later. But we’re interested in Nearly a Knight, which Rebekah grabbed for her project. We were off to the races.

Didn’t I tell you? Before Script Frenzy, we had a few more story discussions about Smoke and Mirrors. Not only did Rebekah come up with the current title of Nearly a Knight, but we also jointly rejiggered the story a little bit.

Mortimer’s carnival troupe from the previous version was tossed. They were a bunch of nameless, characterless people who were bogging things down. That, of course, left the evil magician hanging a bit, but we found a better way to work him in.

Instead of heading up the carnival troupe, the evil magician became the henchman of one of the king’s discontented former advisors. This advisor wants the king out of the way and he’s hired the evil magician to get the job done in a way that doesn’t implicate him.

Okay, now we’re up to date. Rebekah and I crawled into our respective writer nooks and banged out two screenplays. May rolled around and I got a look at what Nearly a Knight was like in a completed form.

My reaction? Nothing short of, “Wow!”

She’d knocked it out of the park, considering it was a first draft. Things had changed and characters had been added. The story was solid. Very solid. The magician and his boss had names and had gotten another henchman, and they’d all been ratcheted up several notches to believable evilness.

Not only was it solid, it was funny! And yet, it was touching, too. I laughed out loud reading some truly hilarious comedy scenes, nearly cried at the ending, and then wrote back to Rebekah with a lot of feedback for making the next draft better.

Well, the next draft didn’t happen for a little while. Rebekah got busy with other projects (for some reason, she likes to write novels, too), and I took Bellwether for a second-draft excursion around the end of 2011.

I was having all kinds of trouble with my second draft of Bellwether. The first draft had a lot of extraneous stuff that I had to weed out, and it was like pulling teeth. About halfway through the draft, I began eyeing the file for Nearly a Knight. Soon, I caved and started to use Nearly a Knight as a reward for working on Bellwether.

By the end of the year, I had two screenplays drafted. I sent Nearly a Knight draft 2 out to Rebekah and some test readers, and waited nervously for results.

I shouldn’t have been nervous. The test readers loved it. They nitpicked at details, but overall, they agreed that we had a good screenplay going. Rebekah read through my draft and took notes. While we were in the same place in early 2012, we sat down with her annotated hard copy of the script and all the test readers’ feedback, and we set to work hashing out details on a third draft.

One really cool thing that came out of that meeting was a couple points where I looked at a line or a gag and asked, “Was that in your draft or did I add it?” And Rebekah honestly didn’t remember. To me, that was encouraging. It meant we were writing the same story.

So, armed with notes galore, we left the meeting with plans for Rebekah to write the third draft. In July, she sent me a brand new opening that blew me away. It fixed many of the issues we’d seen with the previous draft and simultaneously brought all sorts of extra depth to the tale.

Then in early August, Rebekah asked me to take a look at the 44 pages she’d written so far. I’m thrilled with how things are going. This story is getting me more excited with every revision.

And now Rebekah is working on finishing the third draft. The process of storytelling continues, and I can’t wait to see what happens next with Nearly a Knight.

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