I looked at Lavender Blue‘s first act and realized it was 46,244 words long.
That’s too many.
I’m not really that fixated on numbers, but I know that readers are going to need to be turned into a new story long before the halfway point. I’m not sure how long this book is going to be, but 46,000 words is definitely the halfway point or close to it. (It was contracted at 50,000 words, but that ain’t happening). I need the murder at the halfway point, end of Act Two, so really, just no on that length.
So I did what I always do. I made a list of the scenes with their word counts, which showed me that eight of them were really transitions, not scenes (too short, no conflict) and then studied the remaining, twenty-five actual scenes, looking for what I could cut (over 10,000 words had to go which was around four scenes).
But the thing was, I really needed all those scenes. Which left me with one solution: Move the turning point scene in that act up 10,000 words or so. In order to do that, I had to move the scene that incited the turning point scene up, and when I was looking for a place to do that, I realized I could just add the inciting event into an existing scene I had. Then I could take out everything down to the transition into the act climax and the act climax; 9700 words shifted into Act Two, leaving me with around 37,000 words in Act One. (That’s still a little long, but I can nickel-and-dime it down in the rewrite.)
The lovely thing is, I think it actually makes the story better. A dinner-with-Mom scene becomes stronger because it’s the aftermath of a lot of shouting at the act climax. Because the turning point is Liz deciding to stay in town a little longer, it also means she’s a little more resigned to being a fixer again, which fuels a scene in which she protects a little kid with a lot more resonance. It shifts the relationship in a scene at the bachelorette party. It puts the first sex scene in the second act, which is really where it should be to arc the romance plot. And it also shifts a high energy scene that I really like but that I’m not sure of its purpose into that second phase of Liz-in-town arc. (I’ll figure out what it’s doing in there when I have the entire first draft done.)
So not only do I have a tighter first act, I have a better second act.
Sometimes I think I’m an idiot, and other times I’m convinced I’m a genius. Today, it’s Genius Time.