Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back to Serious

Okay the fun and frivolity is over, I'm getting back to the business at hand. Writing. Or actually HOW to write.

I believe I've made a grave mistake thinking how I could turn a 3-act into a 5-act. But I'm not sure. (More on that in a minute.) I'm nearly finished with the first act, I've got 16,856 on my word count which is where I wanted to end up more or less. I've probably got another grand, 1500 to write to sew up the whole Saturday night scene.

Tony and Genna have finally had a chance to sit down and talk in a really flashbacky tortured gut-wrenching scene. I haven't cried yet so I know it's not done. I haven't gotten to the really powerful stuff when he tells her what happened after she left him. When he tells her he's never stopped loving her, longing for her even when he was making love to his wife. ooohhhh yeah.

But now this is where I find myself semi-stuck. It's the end of Act 1. In the outline, the next big event is the 4th of July party at Angie's house. I have 7 days to make that happen,(this is a three week storyline) unfortunately I think I only have enough angst floating around for one act. The climax at the end of Act 2 is Genna and Tony, again, re-evaluating their lives, with and without each other. Act 2 is also where we find the minor plot lines of Angie, Fortuna and Nana Rocco (Hah, you thought I was done with Nana didn't you...oh no, Nana dropped a bombshell on Genna I didn't tell you about that makes Genna REALLY think about what she has, had and could have. oooohhhh yeah.)

Anyway, after the 4th of July party comes Act 3 where Genna and Tony spend the whole act together. It's supposed to really show how confused Genna is, how Tony has changed his whole life since Debbie's death, how they still love each other but Genna isn't over her hurt yet. That's 17,000 words of Genna and Tony. I don't know if I have enough words for that. The whole act would take place in one location and pretty much be all dialogue. Yeah, I'm flagellating between scary and boring.

Then comes Act 4 in which all the other plot lines are tied up and the climax of that is Genna having to make a final decision either way of what she's going to do -- go back to Maryland or stay with Tony. Don't know if I have enough words for that either considering most of the scenes, are the tying up of all the minor plot lines save one. Then the whole of Act 5 is Genna driving to and from Maryland trying to make a decision. Yeah I know...BORING.

My main idea with writing a 5 act was that it seemed at the time it would be easier to write 20,000 words for each act. That seemed a whole lot less daunting than looking at a 100,000 word manuscript. More or less. I can't do math so dividing by 5 = 20K. I've also considered adding more family stuff in, Robby and Lauren for instance, giving more credence to Benny whom you haven't met yet, and maybe even Fat Pauly and Tina. I don't know if adding characters is the way to go. I suppose I could build up Angie and Michael, it is a family saga sort of.

I was also toying with the idea of allowing Tony to have the 4th act, tell his story from his point of view, so we go from 1)genna home 2)minor plots 3)genna & tony 4) tony 5) all plot lines sewn up, final climax, end. Aargh!!!! What have I gotten myself into?

Then again, I could just shut up, write the damn story without chapters or acts and when I hit the end, it's done. When I go through revisions I could just stick the chapters in. You know. Who said writing was easy?


Kelly@ JustWrite said...

Haha, you are funny. That last paragraph had me laughing out loud. And, I have to tell you, that's the way I was leaning as I was reading. We torture ourselves with chapter lengths and word for my advice I'll divert to my own blog title and your last paragraph...JUST WRITE!

Good luck, it will all fall into place, you'll see!

Piedmont Writer said...

Kelly -- Yeah, and they call me a Prolific Blogger. They'll probably take the award back when they see this post. I am sort of kind of leaning still in the direction of the 5-acts but only for the word counts. I am going to take another look at the outline again and then just write. I'm so close to finishing Act 1, and I have to find something-something for tomorrow so I better get a move on.

Ryan said...

Lol, this was a great post. Really kinda funny their towards the end, and its kinda hard for me to try and suggest something to help since I neither write nor read straight contemporary (i.e. anything without a fantastic/horror/scifi element). It looked like in one of the excerpts I read you had some mention of mob elements. You could build a mafia sub plot into the story to spice things up a bit, maybe a hit that kills one of the important characters and tony or whoever goes to genna or whoever for emotional support, and they deny that support. Or my favorite way to spice up a plot, throw a bomb, watch it explode (possibly killing a number of characters and tying up plot lines that way lol).

But, anyway I think you hit on the important bit of advice I could give in your last paragraph. Just write the darn thing and see where the story wants to take you. Don't worry about chapter breaks, act breaks, whatever. Just get the thing on paper.

Hope it goes well for you:)

Christine Danek said...

I got to this point. I just wrote it and I'm now going back and adding in. My revisions are going to take a while.

Piedmont Writer said...

Ryan -- yeah, no, mob hit really isn't the thing I was going for though it would be interesting. I think I'm just going to write and see what happens.

Christine -- I think that's all I have to do is just shut up and write. It'll all come out in the wash anyway.

Dominique said...

I wish I had more advice to offer, but I've never attempted a five act structure. Really, I'm quite in awe of you, because it sounds really challenging.

The idea of giving Tony the fourth act sounds interesting, but I don't think I known your story well enough to comment on that. I probably wouldn't suggest taking my advice.

Honestly, I'd probably just write the whole thing, putting the chapters in where I thought the worked, and seeing how the act structure looked then. But that's just me.

Elana Johnson said...

Well, just so you know, you're miles ahead of me for even thinking of acts. I just sit down and write. Sure, I have notes and I jot scenes down as they come to me. I don't write in order and then I have to piece everything together. So I feel the whole putting chapters in after. I do that all the time.

Good luck!

Lady Glamis said...

Just write! Go go go! I'm almost done with my final final edits on Monarch. You may get something in the mail. :)

Talli Roland said...

I love this peek into your writing brain! I agree with the others - just write! You can rejig the pieces later; it's part of the fun!

Shelley Sly said...

It's funny, you have all these (logical, probable) ideas, but you never know -- the way you end up writing it may turn out to be completely different than you planned. Or not. But I agree with the others that writing is the first step. You can sort it out later.

Also, "Then the whole of Act 5 is Genna driving to and from Maryland trying to make a decision. Yeah I know...BORING." Well, of course it's going to be boring, because it's Maryland! Any drive to and from here is utterly painful. Ha, kidding, I'm sure the actual STORY involved in Act 5 is interesting, but the scenery most likely isn't! ;)

B. Miller said...

Great post! I love seeing the "inner workings" of other authors and how they plan out writing their books. It makes me feel better to know I'm not the only one agonizing over what needs to happen when and how many words to devote to what topic and... well, you know. Thanks for posting!

Lola Sharp said...

See Anne, this is precisely why I don't outline, plan, plot, or structure/acts! I'm pulling my hair out, and biting my nails just reading this post.

My advice? Forget everything, and just write the story in your heart and mind. Let it flow.
You can tidy it up later.

That's how I roll, anyway. I'm probably a study in how NOT to write novel.

Happy Humpday, my friend.
Write on, sister, write on.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure something will dawn on you when you least expect it. I just write and work out all the details later so I really admire that you're even bothering to stick with your outline/plan! You are still a prolific blogger - you've got us thinking about what advice we could give you, which makes us intellectually productive. See? We're all one big team here.

Good luck!

Tahereh said...

eeeee it stinks when we get stuck. but i think it eventually gets easier -- sometimes you just need to follow the flow in your fingers -- even if it doesn't make sense!!

that probably didn't make any sense. tehe.

wishing you luck, bestie!! GOOD things for you! GOOD THINGS!!

She Writes said...

The ones who think writing is easy don't write or aren't any good--just guessing :)!

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Anne, a couple things came to me as I was reading this post. First, you're capturing the chemistry between Genna and Tony -- I can actually sense it as you talk about them! I can't wait to read their story :)

And, I love LOVE the name Nana Rocco. Homerun choice!

Here's the other thought I had: There's still part of this story that you haven't fleshed out yet. I suspect it's lurking in the shadows of Act 3. You said of that: The whole act would take place in one location and pretty much be all dialogue. I guarentee that's not how it's going to go down. A character is going to whisper something to you that will change this part of your outline. Keep your ears open! LOL

I read "The Shack" by William P. Young for my book club last month. It was torture for me, as a writer, to get through. Most of the story, at least the entire middle, took place in the famous shack. For me, it was a hundred plus dreary pages of "enlightening" dialogue between the same four characters, with very little changes in setting. Sometimes they talked in the kitchen, sometimes on the porch, or out on dock...It drove me bonkers!

Let your characters talk in different locations. Have them be doing something that mirrors or contrasts in some way their conflicts. The dialogue will become more dynamic, more tense (because people can't talk as freely out in public as they can on the sofa), and the reading experience will be richer for it.

I would have advised W.P. Young to do a lot more of that than he did in The Shack.

Best of luck working out the kinks. You can do it -- it's all in there, in your muse's soul:)

scott g.f.bailey said...

This is what I meant when I said the 5-act might not work for you: you're trying to make the structure drive the story, not the other way around. My advice is to just write it out and think about actions and consequences and characters and relationships. Ignore wordcount for this. It's a first draft, right? Wordcount is mostly irrelevant now. Just get to the end; that's your single most important goal at this point. You can revise a crappy first draft; you can't revise blank pages.

sarahjayne smythe said...

I give you mad props for trying something new and different in your writing. And it sounds like you really know how the story unfolds. My suggestion is just to go with that. Get it down, get it written, and then worry about the breaks.

But that's just me being selfish because I really just want to read it. :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Dominique -- I really like the idea of giving Tony his own act because right now nobody knows what he's been through, only Genna. I'd like to give his side of the story.

Elana -- I'm no where near miles ahead, this was just an idea that came to me two weeks ago and as you saw today, seems to be falling apart.

Glamaliscious -- Send it NOW!!!

Talli -- I know, I hate this, I have everything I need but TIME!!!

Shelley -- Believe it or not, this is what I'm most afraid of, that it will turn out to be something entirely different than I wanted. And not that Maryland is boring, but the drive certainly will be.

Piedmont Writer said...

B. Miller -- I don't really think you want to see the "inner workings" of my mind, it's pretty scary in there, as today's post will show you.

Lola -- This novel started out by the seat of my pants and then I had this great idea to change it, and this is what I get. Write on!

E. Elle -- "Intellectually productive" I like the sound of that. At least I'm helping you all in some way, even if I am nuts.

Tahereh -- I'm following the flow baby, no matter what, problem is I'm not sure where it's going to lead.

Amy -- I'm so glad you're back.

Piedmont Writer said...

Nicole -- There's so much chemistry between Genna and Tony I can't stand it. Love/hate of course. And as for Nana Rocco, yeah, she's a Nana I'd like to have.

Yeah that whole Act 3 thing with them being in the same place, once I get it written I should probably let you read it because it's really intense. A LOT of stuff comes out between them, which is why they're kind of stuck in one place. A whole range of emotions fly. I can't think of the play but it starred (on tv) Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, he was a dried up drunk professor she was his wife, they have a young couple come over to the house and liz & richard have this knock down drag out...damn I hate it when my memory goes...any way that's what it's going to be more or less. The BIG EMOTIONAL tension where they share yet they deny.

Piedmont Writer said...

Scott -- As usual, you're right but I really really like the 5 act structure. I can SEE it in my mind's eye working the way I want it to. And it looks really good in the outline. But I do have to just write it and finish it and see what happens with it.

Piedmont Writer said...

Sarah Jayne -- Believe me dearest, you will read it, all together in one cohesive piece.

Palindrome said...

Yeah, I'm not a big chapter person myself. I type every part in different word documents though.

Good luck! You'll find what works best for you!

Piedmont Writer said...

Hannah -- I tried doing that but just ended up with a bloody mess that I got lost in, especially when I was in revisions, I kept losing things. Now I type the first draft in one Word, then take out and put in different docs. so the main body is the same but the outcasts are quickly found if I want to put them back in again or somewhere else. Cut and Paste baby, that's my motto.

Donna Hole said...

I wish I could structure like that Anne. Then again, I'd probably find a way to procrastinate that too, lol.

Now, I didn't want to be rude and say what I was thinking though this but - you said it yourself. Go write write write.

But, not on the outlines. I'm positive you'll end up with the word count you envision as you actually begin. Nobody can be that organized and not meet some portion of the goal; even if its just satisfaction that you're making progress.

I'll be sending you creative thoughts in case you need back up.


Susan Fields said...

My books tend to end up being shorter than I thought/intended them to be. I don't know why that is, but it's annoying. The good thing is, in the case of my current wip, I had a few people read it, and they told me what they'd like to see expounded on, and I had plenty of word count left to add the extra scenes.

DL Hammons said...

Who said writing was easy?

Amen, Sista!!

Christi Goddard said...

All these posts by our mutual friends are making me feel so lame. I just... write. There's no planning. Nothing written down anyway except random dialogue bits I don't want to forget. I start a chapter with, 'hm, I think today Sam should...' then I just write it. I know my plot, know different things I want to happen, and I see where each day takes me. Chapters vary in size, as does my ambition. Today was a whopping four paragraphs. Yesterday was ten pages. I'm terribly inconsistent.

Then again, it didn't help that I stopped to write my entry for Sarah's 750 word challenge tonight.

To be honest, my stuff is always way too long. I have to edit the crap out of my stories. I'm glad you have a system. It probably saves you a buttload in editing stress.

Piedmont Writer said...

Donna -- That structure was a random idea that exploded on me one day. But it seemed to work so I ran with it. Problem is it might not work after all. I am writing. Achingly slow, but I am.

Susan -- It's ALWAYS easier to expand on a MS. than it is to edit. OR I feel anyway. I always hate cutting my words.

DL -- Amen Brotha, can I get an Allejuiah!!!

Christi -- I'm going to hit you up with lame right now -- it doesn't matter what you write, only that you write. Believe me, I can prosetylize with the best of them about structure and plot and all that other bullshit, but it's just bullshit. The main thing is to write.

and somedays I take an hour to write one sentence. One day I spent 45 minutes going back and forth with a comma.

Who cares, it's what we do. It's what makes us writers. There's no right or wrong.

And my stuff is always WAY TOO LONG. I'm always filled with angst because I hate editing. I hate to let even one single word go.

Falen said...

i tried to comment on this yesterday but blogger slapped me away.
you could always throw in a body for some conflict in the laster acts. OOh, or a fire! I throw fires in everywhere

Piedmont Writer said...

Sarah -- I'm into conflict and tension but I don't think I could kill anyone or burn anyone out BUT I promise I'll think about it. How about an accident? A bad one?

Christine H said...

Um, you lost me at "Tony and Jenna have finally had a chance to..." Plotting stuff confuses me if I haven't actually read any of the story.

So just shut up and write the damn book, okay?

(cheesy grin)

My friend and I have a saying: "When the going gets rough, just stab someone." (in the story, not real life)

Of course, we both write medieval-type fantasy, so people tend to get stabbed a lot anyway.

Christine H said...

P.S. I save all my old drafts, plus make quadruple backup copies of everything and save them on different drives. so I bet I have at least thirty files with all or parts of the novel here or there. I agree that I don't want to lose something I might want to bring back later.

I used to also save each chapter as a separate file so I could look at them side by side and avoid continuity errors.