Breaking into Act Two or My Living Nightmare



I don't know what it is about breaking into Act 2 - and given the amount of blog posts and YouTube videos on this topic, I know it's not just me - but I lose some serious steam! Working up to the 'catalyst' or 'inciting incident' beat in a story I feel so motivated. I feel like my writing has direction and everything has a purpose - we are going to that spot riiiiight there. But in Act Two suddenly everything becomes more complicated. The threads of the story fray and there is more to keep on top of, more relationships to build, more happening in the background. And what usually happens at this point? I give up.


Well, not this time. I am two chapters into act two (or about 4500 words) and I am managing to keep on top of it. I'm not going to lie - sometimes writing words has been, well, painful. Sometimes I feel like I'm losing purpose. Sometimes I feel like my characters are rolling their eyes at me. But do you know whose problem that is? Future Marianne. She gets to deal with that.


There are two things that are getting my through the "muddled middle".


  1. I have a very clear mid-point that I am trying to get to. In the same way that working towards the inciting incident beat works so well for me in Act 1, I have a goal which combines elements of both my main plot and the subplots which are going on in the story. I also know that this midpoint is a low point (anyone else who just loves misery?), which means that things for my characters need to be getting progressively worse as we get closer to the 40,000 work mark.

  2. I am not overwhelming myself with planning. Right now I have a list of scenes I would like to include in a vague order and I am planning exactly three scenes ahead. I write the scenes and then I reevaluate the situation. For a lot of writers this probably sounds horrendous. In my Camp Nano writing group, one writer showed us the intricate mind map of his planning and, honestly, while I was overwhelmed with envy I know my own limits. I'm a small, manageable goals type of gal. Tiny little kernels of planning followed by tiny little bits of writing is going to get me to the end. Or at least to the midpoint, after which I have more of a concrete plan! That kind of organised, intricate planning just drains me and makes me lose motivation.


In addition, I feel like my grand "no edits" plan is working a treat - thank you Scrivener notes functionality. I'm not agonising over the fact that things are changing as I go and when I realise that something I wrote way back in chapter 2 isn't quite right any more its just a quick click and a little note to poor, old future Marianne, and then I'm off again.


The one big lesson I've learned breaking into two of this story is that I didn't quite have my finger on who my main character was at the start but I've got the essence of her now. I know that means even more work when editing, but I'm glad that I've persevered and gotten her to place where she is consistently flawed and coming through on the page a touch more naturally.


Overall, beginning the second act was not as painful as I originally feared. However, we've got a ways to go before I reach the midpoint (like, 25,000 words...boke!). I imagine the struggle is not over just yet...




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