Because I must get a proposal done before Nita is finished, I have started on a new book. Yeah, I’m not thrilled about that either; I love the book but balancing two narratives in my head is not a good idea, especially since one is overworked and the other is nascent, but here we are. At least it’ll make a nice change for you all since I’ll be bitching about Alice (aka Haunting Alice) instead of Nita (aka The Devil in Nita Dodd).
So what’s a proposal you ask, and how am I making one for Alice? (You have to ask because I need a blog post.).
I’m finishing up Nita and working on a proposal for the next book, which I’m thinking will be Haunting Alice. It’s so much fun looking at something new, figuring out plot points, slapping together a synopsis that will inevitably change radically, making research lists, and then there’s the collage . . . . I do love Nita but it’s been four freaking years and that’s too long on a book, at least for me. Plus I’m done with demons for awhile. Very shortly it’s going to be ghosts and magic and butterflies and reality as perception not fact. SO. MUCH. FUN.
Happiness is new opportunities that nestle in beside the old. What made you happy this week?
Today is Rivers Day.
I have a thing for rivers. I grew up on a little one, the Auglaize in Ohio. Then I lived on a big one in Ohio, the Ohio River. And now I live on a former river, dammed up to make a lake. Somebody once told me that you’re either a mountain or an ocean person, and as far as I’m concerned, you can have both, I want rivers, working rivers with barges, peaceful rivers with shore birds, tiny rivers you can step across, huge rivers that take your breath way (the Ohio is a marvel and I miss it). So why a Rivers Day? Because like everything else on our planet, they’re under threat. We need our rivers, and today is the day to remember that.
It’s Rivers Day. Go look at one and feel better and then see if you can do something to preserve it, please.
I’m assuming from what you’ve been doing that 1) you think your acts should all have about x number of words and/or 2) you think all acts in a book need to have about the same number of words to feel balanced. So, given that, could you, hypothetically, split act 2 into two acts and have five acts instead of four? . . . . Is there a rule of thumb about the number of acts one can have in a book like yours? I feel like I’ve seen different numbers of acts used in different literary works but perhaps I’m missing something obvious due to the fact that this is not the kind of writing I do.
There is no rule on acts.
They’re just a tool that I use to structure. So here’s my theory of acts–ust mine, nobody else’s, not a rule, merely a cheat sheet for me, the lousy plotter:
That whooshing sound you heard was September rushing past. At least I did manage to read new books this month–the Raven Boys series–and a lot of recipes. I also started on the Unfuck Your Habitat Book which I get back to as soon as I get at least one proposal to New York and finish Nita. Which I have been saying for months. I haven’t watched TV in weeks, either. I’m going to have to take a break to get a story fix pretty soon. ARGH.
What are you reading, fellow Arghers?
I’m working on several proposals and a novel and thinking about building storage in my future bathroom now. I’m finding that I really love open storage in the kitchen and it make sense that I’d like it in mh closet, too, except that my closet is also my bathroom to be (it’s 9′ x 10′, there’s room) so I have to think this through. Also I still have that Suncatcher Shawl to finish, and I think I’m going to take the dogs into the side yard, clean off the lawn chaise, and bask in Indian summer while I finish up.
What’s on your agenda?
I am wondering where the word count requirements originate. Is that an industry standard? Is it what you yourself have developed as the best structure? A mix of the two?
A mix of the two.
Word count is usually stipulated in the contract. In this case, my contract says 100,000 words, which is my natural length anyway. Legally I can go 10,000 words either side of that, so 90,000 to 110,000, although as I remember Fast Women was 116,000.
The act counts are mine because I write in acts to arc the plot. And because I want the plot to escalate, I try to make sure each act is shorter than the last one so that the turning points/big moments come faster together as the plot progresses. That’s just my thing, nothing contractural.
Here’s the problem with Act Two: It’s 45,000 words long. Even with allowing it to go to 30,000 (usually my second and third acts are within spitting distance of 25,000) that’s still 15,000 words I have to cut. That’s sixty to seventy pages. That is not something you can do by just dropping scenes. That’s rewriting. And because a book is like a machine full of cogs, every time you delete/change/add a new scene, another cog in the book moves somewhere and changes something else. Acts One, Three, and Four are in good enough shape that once I get Two done, I just have to read from the beginning and find out where all the cogs slipped in the rewrite. But Act Two is being a PITA, so I must go in and rewrite now. (You can stop reading now because the rest of this is just a description of what I’m doing, mostly so I stay on track. Do not expect brilliance.)
It’s been glorious here this entire month, almost always in the seventies during the day, fifties to get cosy at night. It’s as if, for right now, the world around here was designed just for humans. Three months from now I’ll be looking at bleak, bare trees and freezing my butt off, and nine months from now I’ll be broiling, but for right now, it’s paradise here. Okay, it’s always paradise here if you don’t mind bears in your garbage, but right now it doesn’t just look like paradise, it feels like paradise, too.
What felt like happiness to you this week?
Today is Pecan Cookie Day.
Or Eat an Apple Day.
(I’m thinking Pecan Cookie.)