October 12, 2007

Structural defects

All the hail the speedy beta reader. For she has returned Wolf 2 with comments that confirmed a lot of the things I was thinking already. In response the girls have shoved that book back into front and centre of my brain (I'm dreaming about it, they're talking in my head a lot, I'm getting snippets of the next book), so it looks like I'm taking another pass before I get to play on anything new. And then really, really, really, I have to leave it alone because there's still the possibility that stuff will need to change if someone buys Wolf 1 and wants changes.

This pass I want to look at structure (which, for me, is a change - I'm a very pantser/instinctive writer and that applies to how I structure things too). Ever since the always brilliant Jenny Crusie spoke at the RWAus conf in August about four act structure, I've been wanting to try some of her ideas. Not sure why the four act idea appeals to me more than any other structural stuff I've read before but it does. The girls are interested. And given that usually the thought of revising and structuring stuff sends them screaming into the night, I'm just going with it.

So over the last day or so I've been working out what I think my turning points and Acts are and this morning used the wonder of Scrivener to compare the lengths of said Acts to Jenny's guidelines (basically Act One should be around a third of the book and then each Act gets shorter from there).

Now this book has always felt "long" at the start to me. So I was expecting to see that it was taking me too long to get to the first turning point and maybe even the second. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. My first two acts are roughly 27k, the third is closer to 37 (though it feels faster) and the last is really short. And yes, my last six chapters are still talking head-o-rama so that will fix some of the length of the resolution somewhat but will also bloat Act 3 more. D'oh.

Which makes me think either I haven't quite got the turning points right (I think this is also called wishful thinking because I'm pretty sure I have), or else we've got some filling out to do at the start and some chopping and changing later on. Thank goodness for Scrivener. And Curio.

I know the act length is somewhat flexible and that rules are, to quote a pirate, really more like guidelines (in a segue I found that line in a Pratchett today, one written well before POTC), but I want to give it a go and see what happens. Which makes me wonder whether one of the girls has a secret inner accountant or whether I'm just in uber-virgo mode. Either way, it's going to be interesting...

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