So I got my part of Act One done on Rest In Pink, and now I’m looking back at Lavender. In particular at the Act One there which is sloooooooooow. The first act of Pink is 35,321, which is also too long, but this is rough draft, so close enough for now. The finished Lavender Act One? 38,579. Attention must be paid.
A quick look down the scene list with the scene word counts pretty much shows me that Bob is not the problem. Bob’s writing is compact, almost terse. No, I’m the problem. Five thousand words out of my stuff, not his.
So the first thing to do is update the scene list with word counts of the scenes. That’ll show me where I lost my grip. And sure enough there are four scenes where I went over 2500 words. That’s not a magic number for scenes, but for me that’s where readers get tied of reading.
But it’s not just word count. Bob is doing the heavy lifting on the mystery so I’m doing the romance. And to make that work, I need Liz and Vince together as often as possible. And there are six scenes in Act One where they’re together, sometimes only in passing. Three scenes when they’re together for the whole time and focused on each other. How many scenes are there in Act One? Twenty-two. Three scenes out of twenty-two to sell my romance. No.
But there’s also the story to consider. There are a lot of subplots here and Liz’s romance plot interacts with Vince’s mystery plot; I can’t just jettison everything but Liz and Vince (tempting, but no).
So to figure out how to fix this, I need to condense what I’ve written down into sections/scene sequences.
So Scene Sequences for Lavender’s Blue, Act One. It reads like a synopsis but there are no spoilers beyond the first act.
SEQUENCE 1: LIZ MEETS VINCE
1. Liz meets Vince.
The first scene is Liz and Vince alone together on the edge of the highway. Good introduction to the romance, 2587 words which is a good number for an establishing first scene. The scenes should get shorter gradually, but that’s a good start. It’s just one scene, not a sequence. Bob added something integral here at the last minute, and it got longer but it also got better, so this stays.
SEQUENCE 2: THE WEDDING PLOT
1. Vince takes Liz to the Porters and leaves (MORE VINCE IN THIS SCENE) 1355 words
2. Liz goes to Red Box with Molly and they catch up, 3540 words
3. Liz tells Will she has to be in Chicago, 860 words
4. Liz finds out that Patsy wants her to stop the wedding, Anemone is introduced, 3090 words.
For those of you who have been here awhile, the problems are obvious.
1. There are two scenes there are over 3000 words. One of them is back story. The other is discovering something that could be explained in a sentence. There are massive cuts in the futures of these scenes.
2. There’s almost 9000 words here and almost no Vince. (Please note, there are Vince PoV scenes I’m not including in this analysis because they’re fine as it and I don’t have to cut them; this is Liz’s PoV plot we’re talking about.)
3. This whole sequence is pretty much Liz finding out things, not doing things. It’s also one scene after another of Liz saying “No.” So looking at it from the point of view of story, this sequence has to
• Introduce the Porters and their relationship to Liz (they’re going to be very important in all three books)
• Introduce Molly and her importance to Liz (more important than the Porters)
• Introduce Anemone and her importance to Liz (more important than Molly)
• Establish the central social conflict of the story–the wedding and all the people invested in it–because that’s where Liz’s personal plot dovetails with Vince’s mystery plot.
And then somehow
• Make all of that part of the romance plot in which Liz is active and is somehow with or linked to Vince.
It’s not unusual in a first act to have a lot of introduction and set-up, first acts are mostly set-up, BUT you have to keep the central story going, too, it’s even more important than set-up, and that’s Liz and Vince. Vince is in the story in his own scenes doing his own thing, with the occasional thought about Liz, but they’re not together. So I have to cut the hell out of this while making sure those four things are established AND get Vince in there somehow. How, I do not know yet. Especially since he’s pretty much missing from the next sequence, too.
SEQUENCE 3 THREE BAD MOMS
1. Liz deals with Mom, 2153
2 Liz deals with Aunt, 1420
3. Liz talks to Molly about Mom and Aunt, 1320
4. Liz goes to bar and talks with Duff, Cash, and Vince, 2236
5. Liz deals with Faye, 2919
So this has to be whacked way back. I’ll try to synopsize Liz’s conversation with Molly (3), and cut Mom’s back to echo Aunt’s although I’m going to check Aunt for repetition, too. The bar stuff is actually good, although I can cut it back some. Vince only comes in at the end, but it’s good, and Bob picks up on that in his scene that follows, so that keeps it going. That scene with Faye? That’s going to get to trimmed WAY back. It also established Lavender, so it’s important, but mostly we need to get back to Liz and Vince. This is all family stuff that has nothing to do with Vince. That fourth scene is back to Vince at the end and it actually sets up a lot of the romance, so I’ll keep most of it. But really, more Vince.
SEQUENCE FOUR: LIZ AND VINCE
1. Flirts with Vince in Bar 2236
2. Gets hit by a rock, calls Vince 1462
3. Hospital with Vince 1097
4. Car with Molly and home to Mom 1340
This is the real start of the relationship. I think the fourth scene can be cut back, but the rest of it stays. This is what a romance reader is looking for. The problem is, did she keep turning pages to get to it?
SEQUENCE FIVE: THE WEDDING TRAP
1. Liz has lunch with Lavender and says no to being Maid of Honor 1213
2. Anemone forces Liz to stay and be MoH 2327
These scenes are the button on Act One. They can both be cut back. The important main plot consequence is that Liz is going to be in town three more days which gives her time to see more of Vince, in every sense of that phrase.
And while I’m wrangling this, Bob is setting up the mystery in the six Vince scenes that aren’t included here. Yeah, fifteen Liz PoV scenes, six Vince PoV scenes. Once the murder happens, he has a lot more to do, but mostly he’s serving and protecting the town, establishing a back drop for the murder.
So here’s the sequence for Liz falling for Vince, the beginning.
1. Liz Meets Vince, first connection
2. Liz copes with the Porters trying to get out of town
3. Liz endure three bad mothers, with a two-minute interaction with Vince.
4. Liz and Vince, second connection
5. Liz gets trapped into the wedding.
So my work today is to figure how do I keep a romance reader reading through 2 and 3 to get to 4 where she’ll get a lot of the two of them together plus some snappy patter and a rescue? And also go to Home Depot and throw out half this house.
Yeah, I’m still thinking about this. Bob keeps saying, “Leave it, it’s fine,” but it’s not fine. Gah.