Twelve Days of Nita: Day One: Act Two Is A Mess

I’m very happy with Nita’s Act One. It’s 36,000 words which is 3,000 too many, but since it should be 1/3 of the book, that would make the finished book 108,000 words, and that’s within the normal contract requirement of 100,000, give or take 10% either way.

Then there’s Act Two, which is still a freaking mess even after I’ve been working on it. It’s been awhile since we talked about Nita, so here’s the rough outline:

Act One: Nita finds out Jimmy’s been killed, meets Nick, realizes something is very wrong on her island, and discovers the supernatural is real, demons exist, and Nick’s going to be the Devil on Saturday. Also she’s falling for Nick.

Act Two: Nick and Nita join forces to find out what’s going on (something Nita attributes to a force behind the scenes she calls Cthulhu), with Jeo and Rab as their team, joined by Button and Max as the act progresses. Nita finds out why she’s been cold for 33 years and why her mother would never let her get angry. She and Nick tentatively begin a romantic relationship, tentative because she has a small problem with him being dead, and he has difficulty remembering how to be romantic because he’s dead.

Act Three: Nick is poisoned and loses his memory as he cycles through all the past years he visited Earth, Nita copes with all the Nicks and with his help figures out who Cthulhu is. Since Nick is semi-alive again, they have an affair, or rather Nita has affairs with several Nicks.

Act Four: Nick gets kidnapped to Hell and wakes up to a political mess there, and Nita harrows Hell to get him back and to finally stop Cthulhu. They live happily ever after.

Act One took forever to beat into shape and required dropping many scenes I liked, so I now have an Outtakes page for the book on the website (that page is not live yet) so that people can read them later. I like Act One now. It’s much sharper and much tighter and needs another beta read so people can tell me what darlings I have yet to kill there, but as far as I’m concerned, aside from the beta feedback and then possible editor feedback, I am DONE with Act One.

Act Two is where I lost my grip. Act Three is about Nita dealing with the 1828 Nick (bastard), the 1934 Nick (conman), and the 1981 Nick (confused but mature good guy) while they track down and solve everything except who Cthulhu is. This needs a rewrite to focus on the romance, but there’s nothing wrong with the structure, and it needs all the scenes it has (I think). Act Four just needs a rewrite to bring it into sync with the changes in the first three acts.

But Act Two . . .

Act Two is a godawful mess. I finally just broke down and did a scene sequence table for it with the scenes I knew were important. The problem is, there are other scenes in there with information that I need, like the visits to the grandmas that tell Nita why she is like she is, and the big baph scene that solves most of Nita’s cold problem. I can cut the scene where Keres gives her clothes to go clubbing in, but that was really good for the Nita/Keres relationships. It’ll be on the outtakes page. And I’m going to need some stuff to set up the poisoning, but that should be just lines I put in existing scenes. Argh.

The good news is that I have the first section of Act Two pretty well done. (I have been working on this.). The bad news is the rest of it, bloated and rambling, including getting that stuff I mentioned above in. And watching my word count because this has to be no more than 30K and 28K would be better. I think I have 27K now and a lot more to go. So more cuts. ARGH.

I will have this act finished in twelve days. With any luck, I can get Act Three done in there, too, and that’s about 60% of the book, with the last 40% not needing that much rewrite (she thought). And then there’s Lily. Thank god I deep-sixed Cherry Saturdays.

Nita: Day Two: Sequence Analysis

13 thoughts on “Twelve Days of Nita: Day One: Act Two Is A Mess

  1. In your summaries of each act, it is really evident that Act 2 is the problem. Your other summaries have actions, but you have much more description (and thoughts/feelings) in the Act 2.

    You already know that.

    Looking forward to the finished product!

  2. I think I speak for all of us when I say that as much as we are enjoying Lily, Nita is what is important. Nita is the book that will be published, we will buy Nita and you will get paid and continue to be able to buy bok choi and dog treats. That is more important than Lily.

  3. Thank you for the promised outtakes page. Really really really thank you.

  4. “(That page is not live yet)”

    You really know us. Tell us now so we don’t blow up the comments asking. 😁

  5. I don’t comment here as much as I should, but as someone arse-deep and sinking in revisions of a book I drafted three years ago, with no lifeline in sight, I just want to say thank you for these structure posts. It means so very much to me some days that I’m not alone in this crazy book-quicksand, and that I’m not doomed to fail because I don’t write beginning-to-end, in order, from an outline, like a Real Writer. I mean, I may still be doomed. But at least this time it’ll be on my own terms.

    (I am also curious about your act-math, because I am to the point of needing act-math myself and I’m unsure how four acts equals a third of the book going to act one, but I’m pretty sure the answer is in the archives somewhere. To the archives!)

    1. The archives are in draft form, but I’ll do a search and see if I can find something. I had it all on Writing/Romance so if necessary I’ll just repost that here.

      The short version: An act is a unit of conflict ending in a turning point that moves the story in a different direction. I usually use four but you can use any number you want.

      The acts get shorter as I move through the book because I want the pace to pick up, escalation, and to do that, I need the turning points coming fast. Also, the first act sets up EVERYTHING so it tends to go long. So as a rough (VERY rough) metric, I do the first act at about 30-33.000 words, and the last act at 15-20,000 words, and give the middle two acts the rest, making Act Two slightly long than Act Three, say 28,000 to 25,000 or whatever. And the total should (for my contracts) come out to 100,000 words, give or take 10,000 words either way.

      BUT I only do that at the very end, not while I’m doing discovery drafts or early rewrites. It’s just for escalation and to make sure no act get unwieldy or unwritten.

    1. Always. That’s why it’s known as the Mess in the Middle. It’s ALWAYS the Second Act.

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