So I now have 43,000 words of rewritten Liz, although I still have to fix the scene at the door (make it Faye instead of Lavender), the dining room scene, and that godawful sex scene (I believe we discussed that here several months ago), and now I have another problem. This chunk is the first act. Unless I’m writing an epic 150,000 word novel, 43,000 words is too many before a major turning point. That’s not because there’s a magic number, it’s because 43,000 words is too damn many words to read before the story turns and picks up speed. This book was contracted to be 50,000 words, but that ship sailed awhile ago and Jen is fine with it being longer, but she’s not going to be fine with it being slow. So now I have to fix the damn pacing.
The obvious fix is to cut something, but I think I need all of it. Well, I would. So now I have to look at the stuff that actually in there. So there’s:
1. Liz’s need to get out of town and get back to work.
2. Liz’s desire to avoid getting sucked into the wedding mess.
3. Liz’s romantic triangle with Cash and Vince.
4. Liz’s navigation of her guilt-inducing mother and insane aunt.
5. Liz’s strained relationship with her best friend and cousin, Molly.
6. Liz’s growing relationship with Peri.
7. Liz’s first encounter with the future murderer.
That’s a lot of Stuff.
A lot of that Stuff is related, though. #7, the murderer, is actually part of one of the first six, so it’s not really another thread, I just had to put it there to keep it from being a spoiler, although to a reader, it’s going to seem like another thread, so maybe it should be #7.
I can go back to the core conflict which is Liz vs. the murderer so I can’t really talk about it here. So I’ll go back to Liz’s internal conflict, which is that she left Burney at 18, two weeks before she graduated from high school, because of events that came from #3, 4, and 5 (Cash, Mom, and Molly). So she needs to put those three things to rest before she can move on because it’s been fifteen years and she still hasn’t resolved them for herself.
The second part of Liz’s internal conflict is that she’s a fixer who doesn’t want to be a fixer. A lot of her stress in this first act is seeing things she feels need fixed and stopping herself because she doesn’t want to get sucked back into Burney, she just wants to get out of town (but can’t for the first two days because her car is being fixed). So when people try to suck her into the wedding complications (#2), she refuses (negative goal), but when Peri needs her (#6), she has to respond.
So maybe I’ve got two threads:
Liz’s need to come to terms with her past.
Liz’s need to accept the fact that she’s a fixer and a rescuer.
Which might work because it’s those two things that bring her into conflict with the murderer.
So internal conflict:
Liz’s refusal to accept that the past wasn’t what she thought it was and that she’s a fixer who will always need to rescue people.
That’s her internal arc through the novel.
So to apply that to the external plot
1. Liz’s need to get out of town and get back to work is because she’s avoiding her past; when she finally looks at her past with clear eyes, she’ll be able to come back to Burney without dread.
2. Liz’s desire to avoid getting sucked into the wedding mess is because she doesn’t want to fix something she has no business in; when she gets sucked in as part of the external plot, she’ll be forced to become a fixer again.
3. Liz’s romantic triangle with Cash and Vince is about looking at the past with clear eyes (comparison of Cash and Vince) plus recognizing another fixer/rescuer (Vince).
4. Liz’s navigation of her guilt-inducing mother and insane aunt is about looking at the past with clear eyes and then fixing it.
5. Liz’s strained relationship with her best friend and cousin, Molly, is about looking at the past with clear eyes.
6. Liz’s growing relationship with Peri is about looking at the past with clear eyes (she was in Peri’s situation at Peri’s age) and about accepting herself as fixer.
7. Liz’s first encounter with the future murderer is about looking at the past with clear eyes, but also about being a catalyst.
I think that last part is key. Everything is stable in Burney until Liz’s car breaks down, then it all goes to hell because Liz is there, not because of anything she’s doing but because the fact of her presence is like Steven’s jar in Tennessee, all the characters rise up around her and look at themselves in new ways and try to use her for their own ends.
I am, of course, babbling here, trying to figure this out.
So what I have to do, I think, is not so much cut out whole scenes, but stand back and try to see this first act as the set-up for the internal and external plots, and then cut the stuff that’s redundant, for example, anything that shows Liz is a fixer over and over again. If that’s in there.
Because I can’t justify a first act that’s more than 35,000 words. It’s just too hard on readers. Argh.