Before anybody asks, no I haven’t cut Act Two yet. I’m fairly happy with Act One, and Act Four is going to need very little rewriting and no cutting because it’s already short, thank god, so it’s Act Two and Act Three that I have to cut anywhere from seventy to eighty pages from. Each. As Button would say, Crap.
Act Two is going to be the real bitch, so I skipped ahead to Act Three, thinking it would be a piece of cake since it could be divided into the Three Faces of Nick: 1858, 1934, 1981. And if it were Nick’s book, it would be easy. But it’s Nita’s book, which means that even though I can keep those three divisions, they have to be about Nita, not Nick. I even broke the damn act on the wrong turning point. I had it the scene where Nick collapses from being poisoned, but Nita doesn’t find out about it until several scenes later. So the scene where Nita realizes Nick isn’t Nick any more and she’s alone again, is the turning point. Except I never really wrote that scene, at least not that way.
So now I must rethink this act.
The rest of this post is me thinking out loud, and you know how that goes: disjointed and boring. Feel free to stop reading now.
Okay, so this act is about Nita trying to cope with Nick being different (and kick him into modern shape) while trying to stave off disaster and all the people who have decided to kill them both. But this can’t be about Nita trying to make Nick the man she thinks she should be, she has to accept the man he is. Except the man he is in 1958 is an insensitive, sexist, patriarchal jerk and the man he is in 1934 is a charming, sexist, patriarchal jerk. By the time the 1981 Nick shows up, he’s more evolved but unfortunately overwhelmed by events, not to mention all the times he’s been hit on the head (he tended to be a violent, sexist, patriarchal jerk).
BUT he also has to be Nick because she continues to love him (love is not love that alters when it alteration finds). So at base he has to be Good Nick, doing the right thing, protecting people, working with Nita. And Nita has to keep working because all Hell is breaking loose around her, sometimes literally; she can’t babysit Nick, she has to do her own job and keep agency. Which brings me to the big question: What the hell is this act about?
I know for the love story, it’s a demonstration of unconditional love for both of them. Nita wants to kill him, but she stays by him and protects him. And Nick thinks she’s a pushy broad who doesn’t know her place, but he steps between her and danger every time and refuses to let anyone else insult her. To really sell this, I need them to remake their relationship three times. They definitely do in 1934 and 1981, so there’s that.
So what do I do with all this other plot stuff? Nick’s solo scenes are pretty much him trying to figure out what the fuck is going on, and they’re brief, so they’re fine. Nita’s scenes are trying to solve the problems on her island, and I can shorten the ones that don’t have Nick (summarize, summarize) and concentrate on the ones where he shows up to solve the same problems and joins forces with her. That moves the Cthulhu plot and the romance.
But there’s all this other stuff that I think is just going to have to go because I have to cut a LOT of pages here, and some of this, fun as it was to write, is just all over the place. The attacks on Max, Rab, and Jeo can go, although I lose some dialogue I like between Max and Button there.
Chloe batted his hand away. “Stop touching that. You got winged in the same place I got you, so it’s kind of a mess, the bullet took out a chunk of you, but it went through so not as bad as it could be. . .”
“I got shot,” Max said to her. “It’s bad, okay?”
Chloe patted his good arm. “But you’re strong and brave and it won’t bother you at all.”
Max glared at her through the dizziness. “I’m weak and cowardly and I’m going to whine for a week.”
“I know,” Chloe said. “I was just trying to give you something to aim for, personality-wise.”
Yeah, that’s a darling and has to go.
So the first thing to do is to make the turning point Nita’s, not Nick’s, which means I move a chunk of the first part of this act to Act 2. I know, it’s the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party approach to cutting. Then I look at what happens in the first part of the act–Nita meets 1958 Nick and finds out that he’s lost his memory and he goes through a gate and she’s alone again, and tries to cope and ends up getting attacked at which point 1858 Nick shows up and saves her. So the first part is Nita trying to go it alone and fighting with 1858. Then Nick wakes up in 1934 and is arrogant and dismissive, but also charming and effective, and she eventually gets through to him and they connect on a partnership level and blaze through a lot of her workload. Then Nick wakes up in 1981, thoughtful and depressed, and Nita has to deal with that, mainly by dragging him back to work which gives him a sense of purpose.
But see, that’s still about Nick. What I need to do is break that down into the Three Stages of Nita. How do those things change her? And how does that change the relationship? How does all of that propel her into harrowing Hell?
I wrote this act following my nose, and now I have to re-set it so that it follows Nita’s plot. I think that means getting rid of the extraneous stuff, and I won’t know the extraneous stuff until I put the focus back on Nita. There are scenes of Nita with the Mayor and Nita with Sandy that I really like. I think the one with the Mayor is probably necessary; I’m not sure that the one with Sandy is, so that’s another one for the Outtake page if I set one up. It’s a nice scene and it makes me cry, but I think it’s superfluous. Same with the Great-Grandma scene; it doesn’t move the plot so it has to go.
So I’m back to listing the scenes and scene sequences and taking out the ones that don’t fit with Nita’s arc and the romance plot. This is fine, as KC Green would say.
49 thoughts on “Cutting Nita, Act Three: Where the Hell Was I Going With This?”
Please, please make that outakes page. I don’t want to miss bits like that Chloe/Max scene! But it does sound like you’re making great progress.
So many pleases.
Please, please write that outakes book, so we can read about all the stuff that didn’t make the final cut. I want to throw money at you, and I loved Crazy People. Maybe you could call it Crispy People?
Not a book, no money need change hands. I’d probably just put it somewhere on here, since Mollie likes keeping the website neat.
You can do it!
Just think, you could instead be working for my client who wants “an engaging storyline” about the use of water in an industrial process.
Full disclosure: I love making that stuff interesting. Or at least short.
What you need is an antagonist.
And when too much leaks, it’s Chinatown?
This is a weird blog. And I love you all.
If you haven’t seen Bathtubs Over Broadway on Netflix you might want to check it out. It’s a documentary on the Industrial Musicals which used to keep actors solvent.
And then remaking the relationship 3 times. I thought I made life hard on myself!!!
Keep at it, Jenny. You got your ticker to the right size (Yay), this is small potatoes in comparison.
Nita does have the overarching goal of wanting Nick, so maybe that’s enough?
Hope the scene with Sandy can stay — scenes that make the readers cry are good.
I’m not sure if that’s her goal or not. She wants a partnership but I don’t think she’d give up anything for Nick. She’ll go to Hell to save him, but she’d do that for other people, too. Her goal is really to save her island, and she met Nick as an antagonist who became a partner and then a lover, also dedicated to saving her island. I think “Her goal is to get Nick” is too reductive.
Is Nick in himself vital to saving the island? Or vice versa – saving the island vital to saving Nick? Then her goal is the same, no matter who she’s saving.
Hmmm. Good questions.
She’s up against an antagonist she doesn’t know or understand, and Nick does understand, so he makes her stronger and helps her save the island.
But as he’s poisoned, he needs her for back-up, so that makes her weaker, she has to take care of/put up with him while she’s trying to fix everything.
And then in the end she has to go to Hell to save him and get the Bad Guy.
Yeah, I need to think this through.
Do you mean that Nita recognizes something about Nick in each era that helps her be more successfully herself? Min and Cal do that in each step of falling in love, don’t they?
Recently, I watched my husband sleeping and started following the pattern of his wrinkles. He sure has developed thousands of them. This started a train of thought about our relationship that led to my understanding “us” in a different way. I only mention this because there’s so much potential in the challenge you have set for yourself.
I think it’s more of a relationship test.
They meet in Act One and at the end they agree to work together.
In Act Two, they work together and attach to each other.
In Act Three, Nick loses his memory, but in each cycle the two of them find each other again, echoing everything they established in the second act.
In Act Four, they end up in Hell working together to defeat the Bad Guy. (Nick pretty much rescues himself before she gets there, but she gets the Bad Guy.)
So Act Two is the romance novel with violence, but Act Three is test that shows they’re going to last.
Off topic, except for the wrinkles. Your comment made me laugh and reminded me of that scene in an early episode of As Time Goes By (a definite comfort-program: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/As_Time_Goes_By_(TV_series))
Lionel says to Jean something about all his wrinkles.
She replies with something like “we call them laugh lines.”
He replies, yes, but not if they are all over your body.
I already miss the stuff you cut/are going to cut. But you can do it. And I always learn something from watching your process. In this case, make sure to focus on who the book is really about. I thought it was Nita and Nick’s book, both of them. Making it her book definitely changes things.
Also, revisions, argh. You have my sympathy.
One protagonist per story.
Nick has a subplot because the Bad Guy poisons him and he has to deal with becoming human.
Button and Max have a romance subplot; Max switches loyalties from Mammon to Nick, and Button earns about her heritage as a demon hunter at the same time she falls for Max.
But Nita owns the island plot (nobody else has the island as a first priority) and her isolation drives the romance plot, so the book belongs to Nita.
Have you ever written a romance that belongs to the hero, rather than the heroine?
Or, you brilliant Arghers, can anyone think of examples of that?
I’m sort of curious because I’m pretty sure my current WIP belongs to the hero, but I’m still in discovery draft, so who knows.
I haven’t, but lots of writers do. I think most of Krissie’s romances are hero-centric (that’s Anne Stuart).
I’ve read a couple of hers… Time to read more, I guess! Thanks 😀
btw this has nothing to do with this post or anything else, but I thought you’d like to know I just texted my daughter a picture of my dog asleep on the couch and she texted back OH NO! DEAD DOG!
so thanks for that
LOL. That’s great.
‘One protagonist per story.’ Do you think this is true for all stories? For all romances? And why? (Maybe this could be a questionable.)
I second (third, fourth, I lost count) the begging for outtakes and deleted scenes. I have read all the many variations and bits and pieces of Nita and Nick you have posted, and I haven’t gotten bored with any of them. There was nothing that I wanted to skim. Okay, maybe the description of the bar the fifth or sixth time I read it, but only because I already knew it; none of the dialogue or character stuff. Others have mentioned we would happily read your grocery list, and it’s true, because you always make everything interesting. Please, please, pretty please, let us see the deleted scenes.
I do think it’s true for most stories. (Never say “all.”) And yes, that includes romances.
I think splitting the story between two protagonists weakens it; it goes back to the double timeline where readers are going to pick a favorite. One protagonist, one goal, one antagonist, one conflict . . .
But I am often wrong.
I’ll do it as a Questionable, but I need a little more Question in there. What do you object to in that? (Perfectly fine to object, I just need a little more clarity.)
I’m not sure I prefer one or the other, but the advantage of two is that you get to see both sides of the relationship.
Yes, that’s also the advantage of head hopping, you get to see everything everybody’s thinking in a scene.
The problem is that what’s an advantage for the writer (head hopping, two protagonists, prologues and epilogues) is often detrimental for the reader. And the last draft has to always put the reader first if it’s going to be published (as in made public, as in asking somebody else to read it).
It’s the same question every time: Does this make the story better for the reader?
It’s not that I have objections, just that I found it surprising. So many romances show the story from two points of view (and many readers complain when there is only one) that I was under the impression that romances at least were better with two protagonists. Obviously, I was mistaken in assuming two points of view, even if given equal time, meant two protagonists, but I was curious why you felt the story should belong to one protagonist, even if some scenes were in the other point of view.
Oh, that’s interesting.
Let me cogitate on that for awhile, the difference between protagonists and PoV characters. Hmmm.
That’s what happens to me when I think about the Diana Wynn Jones books I have read. I think the female point of view character is the protagonist, then realize that the big actions and changes happened to a male.
I fully support you doing everything you feel you need to do to make this Nita’s story and wince at the humongous work involved. . But please give us the outtakes.
The hero thing.
I get what you are saying. I loved Faking it and that story belonged to Matilda, not Davy.
But I love The Fantastics and that story belonged to Mr. and Mrs Fantastic. And then there’s Nick and Nora Charles.
I also know I will love whatever story you give us. You are an amazing talent.
If you’re talking about first The Thin Man movie or book, those absolutely belonged to Nick Charles. Myrna Loy is luminous, but she’s not the protagonist. The book is even more male-centered (well, Dashiell Hammett).
The Fantasticks I do not know (I know, I know, I should know the Fantasticks).
How do I know if I’ve chosen the wrong protagonist? I think it’s Clara, but what if it’s really Dilly?
Kate, I think it doesn’t matter if you as an individual reader see a character as the protagonist, while the author and many other readers see a different character as the protagonist.
Sure, as a former English teacher, I know there are ways to identify the protagonist so that a group can have a discussion. But you can enjoy a story your own way.
I think the “readers” that Jenny is referring to a generalization; if the publishers think “readers” will read the book, they’ll publish it.
I didn’t end that right. The writer has to be conscious of what will grab her readers, what will keep them reading, and what will leave them satisfied at the conclusion.
Did Terry Pratchett ever have an amorphous group called The Readers? He would parody it so well.
I did that once.
I was writing this book about this woman who had two personalities and she had a little sister. The little sister was more fun to write and the hero liked her better, so I went with her.
I mean, you can go all analytic and talk about who has the biggest problem and the most interesting goal and the direct conflict with the antagonist, but basically, it’s “Who do you want to spend the most time with on the page?”
I like both Nita and Button, but Button’s easy to write and Nita isn’t because she’s more interesting. Button’s fun, but Nita makes me think. Another time in my life, I’d have gone Button, she’s like my HQ protagonists, but for where I am now, Nita’s my girl.
LOL, is this Faking It? Too funny! And one of my faves!
Do you know that I’ve just this minute realized that I’m afraid to go back to Glimmer Girls? I’m afraid of getting it wrong.
You can’t get it wrong. It’s your story. You’re the only one who can tell it. If you like it, it’s right. If you don’t like it, change it until you like it. You’ve got this.
Thanks, Jenny! I’ll see if I can talk myself into working on that book again.
I know I’ve said this before, but why can’t we have a 600-page book with EVERYTHING in? Why cut all these fun things? You’re Jennifer Crusie; your fans, and we’re legion, will buy it and read it. Why do you have to critique your own writing so stringently? That’s someone else’s job. Your job is to write. Let someone else analyse it later.
But she’s obviously not happy with the story yet. You want to feel good about your work before you put it out in the world.
Plus, those writers who rest on their laurels are not the ones I stick with.
1. A 600 page book that NEEDS 600 pages is one thing. A 600 page book that’s 600 pages because the author fell in love with her own voice and then just wandered all over the island is an entirely different, very bad thing.
2. “Fun” does not always equal “good,” and often does not mean “helps tell the story.”
3. I haven’t had a book out in ten years. My legion is more of a cohort at this point.
4. I need to critique my writing so stringently because I’m the only one who can. An editor can come through and point out flaws, inconsistencies, slow places, etc. but I’m the only one who can decide what has to stay and what has to go. As a President once said, “I’m the Decider.”
5. As somebody else once said, “Writing is revising.” This is part of the process. I write the book. I read the book. I fix the book. The betas read the book. I fix the book. The editor reads the book. I fix the book. The copy editor reads the book. I fix the book. Readers read the book. I eat a lot of chocolate.
Outtakes page! Outtakes page! Outtakes page!
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