Catching Up

So spring has sprung here in northern NJ, and with it evidently some really hefty pollen. I’ve been flat on my ass due to over-medication for the past two days, although the good news is, I’ve had plenty of sleep, so I’m feeling sprightly today. Also, now I’m just stuffed up, not gasping for air, so HUGE improvement.

My plan for this morning, which I slept through so now it’s afternoon, is to figure out that first 10K/beginning of the first act. It’s running at about 14K which is obviously too long (I can do math), but it’s still in such wonky first draft form that doing a nitpicky edit where I start pulling out adverbs and adjectives and unnecessary sentences wasn’t really going to solve the problem. The problem is, the whole thing needs (to be) tightened. So the following is written and graphed as I’m thinking it through since I have to do that anyway and I need a blog post. That means that the rest of this is long and rambling as I figure it out. You have been warned. (If you drop to the end, I’ll sum it all up in one paragraph, assuming I get to a summing up.)

This first 10K, which from now on will be called the Set-Up, has to introduce Nita and Nick and their goals and bring them together in an uneasy partnership. They’re not going to be fully partners until the mid turning point (point of no return), but it made no sense that they wouldn’t start sharing information once they have a basic understanding of each other and those goals (much like the reader). So the very rough first draft looked like this:

Scene Sequence Plain

That basically introduced Nita and the problem (there’s a shooting and the major witness says he’s the Devil) in the first standalone scene, then there are seven scenes inside the bar in a scene sequence, and then the beginning of another scene sequence the next morning; that scene is the end of the set-up and turns the rest of the first act into the tentative beginning of the partnership.

The last scene needs to be seriously rewritten, but the big problem is that seven-scene sequence in the middle; it’s ridiculous. So I need to go back and look at that scene sequence as one large scene, even though it’s going be a sequence in the end. I’ve been just following my nose (first draft), but now that section has to have to the coherence of a scene, which means I have to look at those as beats. If I do that, it looks like this:

Scene Sequence in Beats

So it starts with the basic detective questioning. That’s logical.

Then it splits into Nick’s phone call and Nita’s confab with Witherspoon. That starts to weaken the coherence, but does give me a scene in Nick’s POV and the info from Witherspoon, neither of which is a justification for scene.

Then Mom comes in and all hell breaks loose. That’s divided into Nick/Nita/Nick scenes and I’ve switched PoVs in those, trying to get them right. I think they all need to be in one PoV, probably Nita’s, although I like Nick seeing Mitzi when she comes in, in part because Nita wouldn’t see her (description) she’s just think, “Oh, hell, it’s Mom.” Still, even with the move outside time, that’s really one scene.

Then there’s the dinner scene in Nita’s PoV while she’s losing her mind.

And the scene upstairs in Nick’s apt while he talks her down and she tries to put things together.

And then the scene the next morning when it all comes together and she has to accept the supernatural.

So . . .

1. Nick says he’s the Devil and she rejects it.

2. Nick talks on the phone to Hell, and the reader knows he’s the Devil.

3. Nita talks to Witherspoon and learns there’s no logical explanation for what happened.

4. Nita goes back to Nick, but then Mom comes in and throws a fit.

5. Nick takes Nita away.

6. Nita comes back to deal with Mom.

7. Family dinner, trying to make it make sense.

8. Talk with Nick in apt.

9. Talk with Nick the next AM.

I think the first three have to stand as separate beats.
4, 5, and 6 have to become one beat.
And as much as I love the insanity of that scene, I think 7 gets cut. So much fun to write, but I can put the ground covered there into 6 and tighten it up.
That leaves me with 8 and 9; I think Nita needs the sleep and the cold light of day to accept Nick as the devil, but I think I can make 9 basically a coda where she wakes up, sees that it was all real, and says, “I need food” and drags Nick off to breakfast for their first real talk about what the hell is going on.


1. Establish the interrogation
2. Establish Nick as the Devil for the reader.
3. Establish Nita rejecting that idea
4. Bring in Mom and blow the whole thing up.
5. Nick as rescuer, talks Nita down.
6. Acceptance

What are those Kubler-Ross stages? Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. (I googled.)

1. DENIAL: Establish the interrogation in which Nita flatly refuses to believe Nick’s the Devil.
2. Establish Nick as the Devil for the reader, introduce his problem, mild conflict with Belia.
3. BARGAINING: Establish Nita still rejecting the idea that Nick’s the Devil and trying to come up with alternative solutions.
4. ANGER: Mom comes in and blows the whole thing up, Nita angry at first and then terrified.
5. DEPRESSION: Nick as rescuer, talks Nita down from panic and disbelief.
6. ACCEPTANCE: Next morning in the cold light of day, Nita regroups.

Five isn’t really depression, it’s more like terror and panic, but close enough. And I know it’s anger to bargaining, but that doesn’t work here. I kind of like this, it’s the death of Nita’s old world. (Two is out of there because it’s Nick’s PoV and his world is still secure; his doesn’t get wrecked until the midway point.)

So Nita moves from calmly in control of a logical world to facing an entirely new world she knows nothing about, but calmly setting out to master it, too.

That makes sense. The family dinner bit, which I still love, just doesn’t fit. So now it looks like this:

Scene Sequence in Beats 2

The next problem is that the first scene here is boring. Plus it should be in Nick’s PoV to introduce him. So can I make the second scene here the first one and play the first scene in the background, Nita trying to question him while he’s dealing with Belia? That sounds like a recipe for word salad, but if I could do that, I could get everything done, get Nick’s PoV in the second scene, and then have Witherspoon come in and pull Nita away. Then do the Witherspoon scene in Nita’s PoV, then back to the Mitzi stuff in Nick’s?

Okay, definitely, put 1 and 2 together in Nick’s PoV.
Then the Witherspoon scene in Nita’s.
Then the Mitzi scene, the three original scenes I think in Nita’s PoV. Except that the stuff from the dinner is going in there, too.
Then Nita upstairs in the apt, trying to cope.
And Nita the next morning, coping.
Which means the breakfast diner scene has to be in Nick’s PoV which is okay because he’ll be seeing everything for the first time, so I can get that on the page.

That’s a five scene sequence, which is doable, although those first and third scenes are going to be nightmares to fix. Which means, back to breaking down actual scenes into beats.

I can do that.

Here’s the new plan:

Scene Sequence Revised 2

Major rewrites on the first and third, then read through the whole thing with the first Nita vs. Mort scene to see if it makes sense, cutting out everything I can to get to about 10K. Nick gets his PoV in the second scene where it’s needed to introduce the reader to him and to establish that he really is the Devil. The rest of the sequence is Nita’s world blowing up, so it really should be in her PoV. Then breakfast the next day can be Nick learning more about the world he’s in temporarily while Nita establishes her new normal. I can take the demons out of that waking-up scene, put them in the previous scene so that the waking-up scene is basically a coda. Set-up established, all the plots in motion, moving on to the breakfast scene where they negotiate the new normal.


With any luck, I’ll have the revised second scene by tomorrow, and I’ll set up the critique post. I’m feeling very chuffed about this. I think I’ll make breakfast.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Nope, that scene with Witherspoon is all information, needs to be conflict. Mom needs to be in there. So new plan:

Scene Sequence Revised 4

I love Curio. It makes this global stuff so much easier.

34 thoughts on “Catching Up

  1. Wow. Talk about creative juices. As ever, you amaze.

    I’m reading psych stuff and writing referral reports. It’s almost end of term 1 here so school reports are being done.

    Why do we avoid doing what’s required/necessary and instead do something else? There’s nothing for it, I *have* to de-hoard but I’d rather be reading psych stuff that I don’t need to be reading. You’d rather be writing Nick and Nita instead of You Again.
    And it’s not like the stuff we’re avoiding isn’t important to us. I’d love an efficient space. I just don’t work toward it.

    1. I don’t either. This place is a mess.
      But today is Super Tuesday and I’m an elections nerd, so I probably won’t get much done today, either, except maybe that rewrite of Nick’s scene.

      1. Oh, I’m often an elections/political nerd, but I find this year’s depressing. I’m staying away from it.

        1. I saw a “Doctor Horrible for President: Because the Status isn’t Quo (paid for by the Evil League of Evil” t-shirt on Facebook this morning. If I were an American, I’d vote for him.

        2. But today is the exciting day.
          If Bernie and Kasich take Ohio, it will be VERY exciting.
          I’m in it just to see Trump or Cruz get creamed in the general. I hope. I’m happy with either Clinton or Bernie just so long as anyone of the neo-nuts on the other side loses. I sincerely hope the sane Republicans can take their party back because this year is nuts.
          538 is live blogging all day and night. I’m in nerd heaven.

          1. I work the swing shift and had the NY Times results map and the 538 live blog up during my shift. Thankfully it wasn’t that busy today or I might not have been able to pay so much attention to the election and still get everything done.

  2. I like Office Wench Cherry’s idea. Also, I’ve seen Reynolds/Washburne for President. I’d go for that, too.

  3. I really want Bernie. If Hilary gets the nomination I will vote for her over the scary repub candidates but I will be sad as I do. I have been so proud of our first black president. It makes me sad that if Hilary gets it our first woman president won’t do us so proud.

    1. It’s hard to tell what candidates will do until they take office and even then, they change. I think the reality of being President is a lot different from planning to be President. Although if anybody’s had an up-close look, it’s Hillary. I also think she’s better positioned to kick Congress into actually doing something. I like Bernie better, too, but I’m fine with Hillary.

  4. The Curio charts confuse me a bit. The first 2 didn’t seem different except the Beat version was in a straight line. What do the colors represent? What are the lines? I like graphs and charts and data and math, so I’m curious.

    Also, I’ll admit to voting for Rubio (in Michigan). The only Republican to not win delegates in Michigan. Sigh.

    1. The colors were keyed to PoV character, but then I was trying to see how fast I put Nick and Nita together and made those red.

      I’ve been trying all night to cut this and make it tighter and it’s not working, so I’m not sure this post is much help. Well, no, that’s not true, the Kubler-Ross stuff actually was helpful. So there’s that.

      I think I’m just too in love with the sound of my own voice. I’m printing this out now hoping that seeing it in print makes it clear that I have to cut it. If that doesn’t work, I’m going for outside help.

      1. Couldn’t you just forge on with the not-writing for now, if it’s that stubborn, which may show you how it needs sorting later on?

        1. Absolutely, that’s what I’d do if this was a real book. I’m just not sure it is. And having this self-indulgent a beginning with a hero/love interest who isn’t very strong on the page is not a good sign. I don’t think Nita is strong on the page, either. So I’m not sure. I put the first 14,000 words together in a document and I’m putting them aside for now to see what else happens as I think about the rest of the book. But not being able to control that first 14K is a worry.

          1. I know you can’t write a book to please readers but if your readers AND you like it couldn’t you forget everything else and just forge on?

  5. I sent it to Lani and Krissie. Lani’s a great analytical reader and Krissie’s a great emotional reader, so they should tell me something. Probably to stop fooling around and go back to You Again.

  6. If it makes you feel better there’s no hard and fast rule on how people go through the Kรผbler-Ross stages, people often go through them in a different order, or go through them more than once. What ever best helps people cope at that time.

  7. Now that all movie discs come with deleted scenes, I don’t see why novels (especially ebooks) can have them too. I would hate miss the dinner scene you love but that doesn’t fit. just saying. Outtakes are big business!

    1. Great idea, but in the end I couldn’t cut it. That’s why I sent it on to Lani and Krissie. They’ll tell me if it’s worthless and send me back to You Again.

      I think I’m just in love with the sound of my own voice. I know that set-up is too long, I just can’t decide what to cut.

        1. If they tell me it’s hopeless, I’ll post the whole thing on the website and give ONLY YOU, ARGH PEOPLE, the URL.

  8. Argh smiley test. Don’t mind me.

    Colon and p, :p colon and D, colon and ), ๐Ÿ™‚ colon and ( , ๐Ÿ™ , semi-colon and ) ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

    1. ACK. I forgot. I’ll see if I can get one, but it’s after five now and there’s a storm, so no sun.
      Thursday will be Office Day. Unless Lani and Krissie get back to me and I can put up the second scene for practice critiques. Then Friday.

  9. Happy you’re sprightly. I’m frustrated — after years of checking this site for new posts, I had the thought to subscribe. Can’t find a clear way to do that. DH said he *was* subscribed, but after a couple posts were sent, poof, the posts stopped coming. (He thinks you’re the best on the subject of writing. Of course you are — I’m the one who directed him to your site in the first place.)

    Perhaps the subscription dilemma has been dealt with before and I missed the discussion. In that case, so sorry for bringing up the topic once more. Still want to know, however.

    1. Don’t apologize. I’ll ask Mollie. (I never look under the hood of this thing.)
      If it’s any consolation, you haven’t missed much this week.

  10. If the first scene is the one you posted with Mort & Nita, I didn’t find it anywhere close to boring.

    Not saying you should be working on this- but not boring.

    And I too would like an after shot of the office. Since you promised.

    1. I will, I promise again.
      I’ll probably try to bribe you with the second scene instead since I dumped a bunch of stuff in there when I cleaned my bedroom and . . .

  11. I’ve never thought of assigning a word count to the start of the first act, I do for the length of each act, but this makes good sense. It would keep the initial writing tighter and prevent the dreaded lapse into back story. I used to do 30K, 35-40K, and 25K for a single title. Now my editor has me cut, cut, cut and I end up with about 72-75 K total. So I’m guessing 25, 30, 20, with the start of my first act now being about 8 K. I’m going to take a look at my WiP later and see if I’m on track with the beginning. Thanks for the reminder as I’m almost finished the rough draft.

  12. Via my fave, Twitter.

    @AdviceToWriters: “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it. D ROFF”

    I like Twitter because it’s not picture-y, it’s word-y. But short word-y. Repetitive mush drains me.


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