And then there was Act Two.
Usually Act One is the hard part to get right and then the rest of the acts fall into place, but this time Act Two is doing so much heavy lifting that it ballooned to 44,000 words. Should be about 28,000, although that’s not happening. Still, a chunk of this has to go (about 14,000 words maybe?)
My ax is getting a workout this week.
So my plan for this novel was that Act 1 would be Nita’s stable world coming undone and her need to save
Two problems. One is that those four are not a progression. The thread in One, Two, and
So that means that while Nita’s goal is still going to be “save the island,” the juice of the story is Nick and Nita, two isolated people finding each other and connecting.
So Act 1 is Nita and Nick meeting and establishing a tentative relationship, not quite a partnership but close, Act 2 is the partnership and jockeying for power, Act 3 is trying to find each other emotionally again as Nick loses his memory and becomes human, and Act 4 is them finishing their jobs on Earth and in Hell on their own and then the big finale when Nita goes to Hell to join Nick and gets her HEA (did you have any doubts?).
As I said, Act Two should be around 28,000 words, give or take a couple of thousand. It’s at 44,000, probably because of the lack of focus. Also, I really love the sound of my own voice. There are two possible ways to fix this.
One is to cut 16,000 words, possibly moving some of them to Act 3, which at the moment is about at the length it should be so that just moves the problem on down the road.
The other is to go to a
I don’t have any problems with doing the second solution as long as the story needs it; there’s nothing sacred about four acts for a novel. The problem is, I don’t think it needs it. Act Two is a thematic whole, two one-of-a-kind beings finding a connection that Act Three then tests. There’s nothing in Act 2 that acts as a turning point, it’s just Nick and Nita working together and growing closer and falling for each other. That’s crucial, but the turning point comes when they’ve finally established their connection and Nick loses his memory and they have to start over. Act Two can’t be arbitrarily split into two parts. It’s a thematic whole.
So Act 2 is Nita’s meltdown, followed by working with Nick at the cabin, followed by that breakfast scene where Lilith shows up and Nita copes with the new normal, followed by pulling the team together (Jeo, Rab, Button, Max) and looking for
The things I think are essential: Nick helping Nita through her meltdown, Nick and Nita working together at the cabin (first beat of partnership progression), then pulling the team together, Button and Max’s subplot, Nick and Nita working together at the club (second beat of progression of the partnership), Nick and Nita in the apartment afterward (third beat of the progression), the bit with Stripe and Nick’s poisoning.
I can cut back the breakfast scene in the apartment, but I think it’s necessary not just for plot purposes (Lilith) but because it shows how easy Nita and Nick are together at that point even though they don’t really know anything about each other. That’s where the proposal scene is, too, and that becomes a plot point. The grandmothers are important for getting Nita’s background in because that explains a lot, but I’m betting they’re the Hotels of Act Two. I might move them to Act 3, which will put that Act over, but I really like the different Nicks in Act 3 and I think 1934 Nick could have a good time with those grandmas. I can elide the marriage license in a paragraph.
What I’m looking at now is an act progression that’s maybe 38/32/30/10, which is within contract bounds and that still gives me the turning points I need, although it takes a good long time to get there, and that worries me. I do not like my turning points being that far apart. Must cut more.
So this week is Jenny with an Ax. Good news: Act Three still needs some work but is at 22,000 right now and moves along a nice clip, full of snappy patter and action. Act Four is under 10,000 and is pretty much done, so that’s good, no drawn-out climaxes. So really it’s just the first 80,000 words . . .