Nita ended up being over 135,000 words which is Way Too Many, so this week between bouts of vertigo, dealing with taxes, and trying not to throw up from both, I decided to trim that book. The first thing I did was divide it back into acts and then looked at Act One, scene by scene. I mention this just to reassure everybody, especially my McDaniel students, that just because I teach something, doesn’t mean I’ve learned it. Because of course scene by scene tells me nothing. What I need are scene sequences. Duh. Only took me an hour or two to remember that.
When I looked at Act One in scene sequences, they fell into this pattern:
1-a: First meet (Trouble Starts)
1-b: Aftermath and minions (Trouble Starts)
1-c: Breakfast, stabbing. (Trouble Gets Worse)
1-d: Authority figures, work (Trouble Gets Worse)
1-e: Hell (Crisis)
1-f: Demon Head (Climax)
I have decided that this is definitely a romance first, mystery second, so each of those sequences should move the romance plot.
1-a First Meet does
1-b Aftermath does because they’re thinking about each other.
1-c Breakfast does because that’s where they first begin to connect.
1-d Authority figures and work? Uh, no.
1-e Hell: This is the crisis sequence and it propels them back to each other so even though they’re not together, it fits.
1-f Demon Head: Yes, beginning of partnership.
So the problem area is 1-d and that’s the place to cut. Then I did word counts for those sequences:
1-a is too long, and since I need all those scenes, the best thing to do is just go through and cut anything that isn’t necessary, even if it’s great. The big problem is that holy moly, 1-d is huge and it’s the least in service to the romance. I could make that two sequences pretty easily, one authority figures (Nick vs Mayor, Nita vs. Captain) and the other their work day, but that won’t help with he focus. If I’m looking for juice in the love story, the key is getting Nita and Nick together as fast as possible (1-a with some cuts), getting them back together as fast as possible (1-c at breakfast) and getting them into a partnership as fast as possible (1-f the end sequence on demon head). That’s where the juice is. I need 1-b to develop the partner relationships (Nita and Button, Nick with Jeo and Rab) and to give Nick and Nita time to think about each to set up 1-c at breakfast, so I’m good with that. And 1-e is Nick goes to hell and Nita sees a screaming head, so that stays to set up the big finish (plus it’s just over 3000 words, so it’s tight). But 1-d . . .
Basically 1-d is a mess. Button does a sit-in’ and thinking’ scene, then Nick talks to the mayor, then Button talks to the captain, then Nita talks to the Captain, then Button talks to Nita, then Nick talks to Vinnie, then Nick goes to Mr. Praxis, then Nita goes to Vinnie, then Nick hits the historical society, then Nita goes to Mr. Crome, then Nick goes to Mr. Crome and gets sucked back into hell. Fascinating it’s not.
So cut Button’s sittin’ and thinking’ scene. Nick with the Mayor stays, although I can cut it back some. Maybe combine the Nita and Button with the captain scenes. The Nita and Button scene where they meet Lily that has to be in there. Summarize Nick’s day in a paragraph that takes him to the historical society, one scene. Summarize Nita’s day that takes her to Mr. Crome, one scene. Then that transition where Nick goes to Crome and gets sucked into Hell.
Now how does that move the romance plot? The captain asks about Nick, Nita and Button talk about Nick. Nick’s day has nothing to do with Nita. Nita’s investigating Nick, but since the reader has Nick’s PoV, there’s nothing new there. I like the scene with Mr. Crome and they talk about Nick, but I can cut it back. And then Nick’s bit with Crome is about a page, so that’s not a problem.
The problem is that nothing there moves the romance. Yep, 1-d is going to be a bear. And the good news is that when I’m done with Act One, Act Two and Act Three are both over 40,000 words and should be about 25,000 so . . . that screaming sound you’re hearing from the Northeast (or whatever depending on where you are) is me. Act Four is actually short, which is fine by me.
And I’ve still got three Argh Authors to get up here. I suck as a blogger, apologies to all.