Monday, April 14, 2014

Abstract Thoughts: We've Got This Map Labeled All Wrong

Wisdom of an Inner Editor
I'm very glad Renee has chosen to follow a more structured writing path with our current project. It's working reasonably well and it gives me something to do during the writing stage, which has always been something of a slow period for me. Plus, plotting out the story in advance has allowed us, I think, to nail down why the middle of Renee's novel is taking so long.

As of the end of last week, we're right around the 50% mark in the story, at least in terms of word count. In theory, that should also mean we were smack in the middle of, or at least getting close to, the climax of the plot as well.

Alas, we were not.

Now there can be some argument made for an asymmetrical plot arc, for pushing the climax of the story a bit, say to the 2/3 mark, to tighten up the ending and give the tension some extra time to build. Plus, the five-part story arc isn't some sort of writerly law. It's a suggestion based on stories that have gone before, right along with the three-act structure and the hero's journey and such. To steal a line from Captain Barbosa, these things are more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

But that's not what's happening here. The problem is actually that we started the story in the wrong place. We began a bit too early, and now we're stuck with more opening than we're going to need.

As we've been slogging up our rising action hill, Renee came to the sudden realization that the reason she's having so much trouble moving everything along is that there's more going on than the outline has allowed space for. What we had down as the end of the first act is actually the inciting incident, and so we're only just now getting to the end of the first act.

Which means there's far too much set up in what's already been written. Of the ~45k words we've got down, quite a lot is going to need to be condensed down or outright cut. At least a third of it going to have to go. Not just for length either. In realizing what the actual turning points of the story are, Renee also realized that the focus of the beginning needs to be a bit different.

(Now, before anyone becomes concerned, we're not going to go back and rewrite the beginning of the novel right now. The draft will probably come in around 100k-110k, instead of the originally intended 90k, giving us room to cut without coming in too short. We're making notes for later, but we all know better than to revise during the zero draft. That's a rabbit hole none of us is interested in falling down.)

Of course, it also means all this climbing we've been doing lately is just foothills and we still have the whole rising action mountain to climb.

Oh dear. I'll just be over there in the corner, drowning my migraine with a shot or twenty.

No comments:

Post a Comment