I started Nita in 2016 (I think) and there’s a page in the Works in Progress menu here that shows six revisions of the first scene, one for each year from 2016 to 2021. (Don’t read all six. If you’re curious read the first and last one, reading all six will make you hate the book.) So now it’s 2022 and this is the last damn time I’m doing this because it really does get to the point where I’m washing garbage.
So here’s my method for revising scene.
I do not do this for every scene in the book. It would make me insane. But there are two times I need this kind of analysis. One is for a scene that just is not working but that I know I can’t cut. Like the first scene in the book that introduces the protagonist. The other is for a major scene, a turning point, that has to be absolutely precise in what it’s doing. Like the first scene in the book that introduces the protagonist. So here we are, using the “analyzing a scene by beats” method to fix the first scene in the book that introduces the protagonist. Continue reading
I need to get Nita out the door, so I’m getting serious about it. Well, I was always serious about it, but now I’m REALLY serious about it. It has problems that I have to identify, which means analysis. Argh. So here’s my plan. (Yes, once again, you’re being subjected to me talking about my writing problems. Feel free to skip.)
I am now deep into revisions with the entire book written, which means lots of analysis. Do not do this during discovery drafts, it annoys the Girls.
Basically, I ran the Act Two plot through the analysis wringer five times:
Once to look at the action only.
Once to look at the antagonist conflict.
Once to ramp up the antagonist conflict because it was weak.
Once to look at the romance.
Once to look at the Button/Max foil romance. Continue reading
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:
I will be the first to agree that taking over four years to write 100,000 coherent words of fiction seems excessive. Actually I wrote 145,000 words of fiction and only some of it was coherent, which is one of the many reasons why the rewrite is taking so long. But one good thing about taking that long is that I can really gain insight into my characters and my story. The bad thing is that after awhile, the story’s dead and I’m not rewriting, I’m just washing garbage, and I’m about three days away from washing garbage here, but another good thing is that I really love this book. When I finally let it go, it’s going to be the best I can do, which may not be good, but I’ll be proud of it anyway. Continue reading
Last night I made stirfry because I had a bunch of food that was about to go south, and you can put anything in stirfry. So I did. It’s not bad–just had some for lunch–because it turns out if you pour enough tamari and sesame oil and garlic on vegetables, they always taste good. But it was lacking direction. There’s so much stuff in there that I just added chow mien noodles and concentrated on the tamari and the crunch. I mean, it has to be healthy–green beans, peas, mushrooms,bok choy, celery, scallions, half a tomato left over from my sandwich, garlic–but there wasn’t any there there. I’m thinking that’s what happened with the first draft of Nita.
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:
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.)
This outtake used to be a lot longer, Then I cut it down. Now it’s out. I don’t think we’re gonna miss it since (a) it’s not very good writing and (b) it’s kind of all over the place. So 6500 words down (I cut some other stuff besides this), 8500 to go on Act Two. (Acts One, Three, and Four are done). Argh. Continue reading