So a few months back my alpha reader (hi mum!) had a look over the first sixteen chapters or so, and told me some things. The first 9 chapters or so were great, but then it started to… nothing. It went back and forth, doing all kinds of things but none of them leading in a discernable direction.
I’ve been working on it, hacking out all the little side-trips to find that direct route… I think it’s working nicely, and I’m itching to get out those chapters and wave them around again, see what people think of them. Great great, good good.
Now I think I’ve finally worked out exactly what the real crux of the matter is, the problem. That first bit that my reader liked? That was the First Act, the set up for the story, where the lead character gets dumped in the mess and promptly buried up to his neck in it. This bit worked because it served that purpose admirably.
The second part that didn’t fare so well? Well it perfectly coincides with the end of the First Act, and I think it had fallen victim to the dreaded Second Act syndrome without me even knowing that was a thing (dun dun duhhhh). The Second Act was supposed to show:
- the protagonist taking direct action to fix the problem they’d been dumped in
- which should have made things worse
- and then with a bit of a struggle seemed to work…
- but NO! disaster! now things are twice as bad as they were before!
- the protagonist tries more things, and comes under pressure to grow/change
- etc blah blah…
So when my character should have been rapidly charging off down this very deliberate path, instead they were doing all these little side-quests, like finding a drink (important, but not exactly driving the plot).
I’ve since lost a lot of my enthusiasm for the three Act system (see why here), but the lesson is that each part of the story has to pull its weight, and serve its purpose.
SO! I’m continuing on my edit run, but now I’ve got a plan: take that T101-meatsack-of-a-second-act and hit it with small-arms fire / the delete key, until nothing but gleaming steel cybernetic organism remains.
Have you written your story with any specific act structure in mind? Beginning Middle and End at least? Is the middle sagging like mine is? (hey, the story I mean).
In other news, watching a tiny baby eat solid food can be pretty damn entertaining, even over facetime