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.)
So the first thing I did was break the act down into scene sequences. There are seven of them, and they should go about 5000/4000/4000/4000//4000/3000/3000. When I started they were 10,000, 9000, 10,000, 7,000, 4000, 4,000, 4,000, 6,000. At the moment the first two sections are 7000 and 5000, so progress, but Sequence 3 is an ungodly mess, so I have to break it down into What This Sequence Has to Do which is basically establish Nita’s New Normal after the events of Act One:
• Nita wakes up with Nick and the dog and cat and has breakfast
• First Team Meeting
• Button meets Max and shoots him
Yeah, I spent 10,000 words on that. Okay there’s other fruiting around in there but that’s all this sequence has to do: Reset Nita’s world to the New Normal and throw them into the day ahead.
So I need to split this scene sequence into those three parts (smaller is better when revising for coherence) and get rid of most of it, more than half. Focus, Jenny.
Then Part Four is going to be pretty simple because there’s stuff in there that I don’t need and I only have to cut about eight pages. Five and Six are already close to where they’re supposed to be, they’ll be cake. And then the last sequence . . .
Here’s the thing about the last sequence in an act. It’s a kind of climax. It’s a turning point climax, it has to throw the story into the next act, but it also ends the arc of that act. So I cannot dally there. I can’t do cute dialogue and clever asides (assuming I could). The last sequence, like a climax scene, has to work its ass off, and this sequence has a flabby ass. I should be bitching about this part sometime on Wednesday.
And now I must work, ax in hand. I can do this.