Learning My Own Lessons

MORWA workshop picA couple of weeks ago, I had the fabulous and fun privilege of flying out to St. Louis to teach a workshop to the Missouri Romance Writers of America (MORWA). They asked me to talk about structuring a serial novel, largely because of this terribly geeky blog post I wrote about it. (I think that’s a data point right there when people ask if writing blog posts is meaningful at all. Just saying.)

 In order to explain my method of structuring a serial novel, I started with the basic structure I use to structure any work. We talked quite a bit about the Three-Act Structure, where Act 1 is the first 25%, Act 2 is the middle 50%, going up to 75% through, with Act 3 being the final 25%. As with many RWA chapters – and one of the things I love about RWA – the members ranged from newbie writers stretching their muscles for the first time up to award-winning pros. So, as I was going over this structure pretty fast, in order to lay the foundation for the rest, I threw out that you know you’ve finished Act 1 because all the stakes are set. And that a solid first 25%, done correctly, will prevent the middle of the book from “sagging” or losing momentum. If you’re having problems with the middle 50%, go back and look at the first 25% and make sure you truly set all the stakes.

One of the newbies put up her hand and asked what that meant, to have the stakes set. Always a good reminder to me that stuff I take for granted at this point isn’t second nature to others.

I explained that the first 25% should introduce the characters, who they are, what they want and why they can’t have it. Some talk about the Three-Act Structure being that you get your protagonist up a tree in Act 1, throw rocks at them in Act 2 and get them down again by the end of Act 3. Setting the stakes is getting your hero or heroine firmly up in that tree.

 So, I’m back home and fully plunged into writing THE PAGES OF THE MIND, which is Dafne’s book, the fourth in my Twelve Kingdoms series. In order to meet deadline, I’ve set myself what is for me a fairly grueling pace of 2,200 words/day, six days/week. As I have a full-time day job, that’s about the most I can do consistently. Some days I do more in the time I have, some days considerably less. The considerably less days are the ones where I circle back and revise or add to previous scenes. (Adding is nearly *always* involved.) I write my books beginning to end, so I really hate circling back like that. It feels like I’m not making progress.

I was getting all frustrated with myself this week about it.

Guess where I’m at? Yeah – 26,000 words, which for those who don’t speak math, is right at 25% of what will probably be about a 105,000 word book. (Most novels are 80,000-120,000 words. Fantasies like this can be on the longer end of the spectrum.)

It hit me sometime yesterday, that OF COURSE I’m doing a lot of circling back, layering and tweaking. I’m setting the stakes for the rest of the book! Once my Act 1 is solid, the rest will fall into place more easily. I know this. I freaking taught people about this a couple of weeks ago.

How easily we forget.

I’m feeling much better now!

Speaking of The Twelve Kingdoms, we’re kicking off the blog tour (heh – I first typed “bog tour,” which isn’t nearly so fun) for THE TALON OF THE HAWK. Today there’s a very juicy excerpt – one of my favorite scenes! – at the Chosen by You Book Club. Let me know if you like it, too. Hee hee hee.

Also, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is starting a bimonthly (every two months, not twice a month) newsletter of members’ new releases. I think it will be great! You can subscribe here.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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