I’m sixty thousand words into my work-in-progress, two-thirds of the way through a novel which will end up being about ninety thousand words. If it was a screen play, I’d be entering the final act.
In the first third of the manuscript, the first act in screenwriting terms, the premise is set up for the reader. What sort of a story is it, and what is it about? Who is the heroine and what does she want more than anything? Who is the antagonist? In many ways the antagonist becomes the engine room of the story. Meeting this character provides the reader with an answer to the final important question. What is the main conflict going to be?
In the middle third of the manuscript, or second act, life is becoming progressively more difficult for my heroine, Nina. This is when an author can torture her main character, in fact it’s almost mandatory! Plans fail, alliances break down, dreams are dashed. Nina’s choices become harder and harder. She has, as the ancient Greeks would say, her long, dark night of the soul. My god, is Nina ever in a bind! But she never gives up. She remains single-mindedly determined to achieve her goal, whatever the sacrifice.
I’m about to launch into my last thirty thousand words – the final act. If I don’t provide my readers with a satisfying finish to the story, I’ll have wasted my time. But I must admit that, despite doing a lot more planning this time, I don’t know exactly how the book ends. I once watched a fascinating documentary on English crime writer Minette Walters. It followed the progress of her novel The Shape Of Snakes. Half way through this complicated psychological thriller about a twenty year old murder mystery, Minette still didn’t know who had committed the crime. Quite the panster! Apparently she writes all her books like that.
“It’s like flying by wire. You embark with nothing, just a tightrope across a chasm. It’s a much more enjoyable way to write because I have to work it out along with the reader. If I don’t know who did it until half way, the reader is going to be fairly fazed as well.” M Walters
There’s a lot of truth, for me anyway, in what she says. Plotting too carefully, can kill the interest and excitement in writing the story. It becomes a chore. So I won’t worry about my ending, not just yet. I’ll just pray for a visit from the plot fairy!
Good stuff Jennifer! As always.
That’s living life by the seat of your pants(ter). xx
Yep. That’s what I’m doing. Plotters? Eat your heart out!
Good for you! I love this bit – “If I don’t know who did it until half way, the reader is going to be fairly fazed as well.” A plot imposed from above risks being both inflexible and predictable. I’m with you. I like my plots organic. 😀
Oh and…. how can you be so prolific? More than 1/2 way through book 3? If you’re taking a hurry up pill can you send me some as well? Grats. 🙂
It’s one of the motivational advantages of having a publishing contract – scary deadlines!
lol – do you ever get to take a holiday?
I’ll take a month’s break when I finish this new one. But I won’t be able to stop scouting around for that next good idea. It’s all pervasive isn’t it, this writing game? Hard to switch off …
Yeah, it is hard to switch off, but sometimes you have to give your subconscious a chance to start digesting new stuff while that frontal lobe takes a holiday. 😀
Yeah, you’re right. Wise words …
I do love posts by other pansters, Jennifer. I’m a third of the way into the next book and have no idea where it’s going, but the characters seem to have an idea… Every day brings a new discovery 🙂
Looking forward to reading Currawong Creek – have spotted it out and about in Victoria!
Thanks Helene. It’s never boring writing like that. Had no idea Currawong Creek was out there yet! – and sorry it’s been so cold for your Victorian trip …