Building Momentum in Act 2
I'm not going to lie to you - last week was hard. I'm not all that happy with the very beginning of my second act - the amount of notes for changes I've been jotting down on Scrivener is testament to that - and I think individual scenes and whole chapters were too short. But - and it's a big but - I got through it. I typed words on the page that pushed the story forward and yesterday I wrote 4500 words. In one day!!
So, how have I been managing this? What is the difference this time versus every other manuscript I've ever tried to write?
Firstly, I'm trying to throw myself into the writing community. Whenever I've tried to finish a project before - even last year when I got about 14,000 words into a draft of a different novel - I was always intensely secretive about it. I didn't tell any of my "real life" friends or family and I wasn't part of any specific writing community online. I would read r/writing on reddit. I would watch many, many AuthorTube videos. But no one knew what I was trying to achieve and therefore there was no one there to support me.
This time I'm trying to change that. The first thing I did was try to throw myself into the Writing Community on Twitter. So far, this has been amazing. When I'm stuck I can post a tweet, add a cutesy gif and lots of people come back with supportive messages. I also get to see that other people are struggling too and I don't feel like such an imposter. Off the back of Twitter, I'm part of a lovely Camp NaNoWriMo writing group which is amazing for support, motivation and accountability! And then because I felt a little bit more confident from joining the online community, I actually told my mum and my sister what I was up to! And the world didn't end! It's amazing how much easier writing is if you don't feel so alone.
I'm keen to keep building a network in the writing community so I have now also joined Writers HQ, a UK organisation which organises monthly writing retreats in various locations up and down the country (although they're all online right now because of Covid) and I signed up to The Write Cohort, a website which matches members into groups based on writing experience and progress with their manuscripts.
Secondly, I think I'm building momentum because I understand how this section of my book should work. I've mentioned before that moving towards the midpoint things need to get progressively worse for my characters. They are on a downward trajectory. I know where they are going and I know some of the stops they need to make along the way so it's easy to ask myself - "what can go wrong next?" They need to cross the sea to Skye? Fantastic - here are three different obstacles to make it difficult for them to get there. They need to find out specific information? Too bad, their network of friends and family don't know and - oh sh*t - the red coats are coming. You get the idea.
Essentially, pushing through the "Fun and Games" beat has become about inflicting as much drama and misery on my characters as humanly possible, peppered with some moments where they think they're safe and on the right track. It's amazing what a little bit of novel-writing-research can do! For more about plotting the structure of the middle, Save the Cat Writes a Novel is a fantastic craft book which helped me a lot and this video by AuthorTuber Alexa Donne is an amazing free resource which I rewatch - often.
Probably the reason I find this part the most difficult is because I have next to no experience with Act 2. But now that I'm into it and the words are flowing a little more naturally, I'm enjoying this section so much that I'm actually less fixated on making it the half way point. Essentially, I'm actually enjoying writing. Which is sort of the point!
I'm a quarter of the way through my manuscript now and my aim over the next 7 days is to make it to 30,000 words. More updates to follow...