THE SILVER SCAR is a real book. Wow. Look at that mess. I've corralled scenes into segments and segments into acts. It's a real book.
Of course, five books in, they all look like this. I construct stories in a 4 act / 8 sequence manner without my trying. I like to call it Four Act rather than Three Act because I focus on the important, essential turnaround that must happen at the center of the book. In SCAR, it's that
Trinidad learns his Bishop has been lying to him. That's his No Turning Back Moment. Every book should have one, and to me it belongs smack dab in the middle. (Mine was on pg 155 of a 315 page manuscript. Without my trying.) I think in romances it's when the couple sleep together.
This is a recent conclusion because, like many writers, I spent my fair share of time thinking the "rules" don't apply to me. It might hamper my Preciousssss Creativity--nay, it will Silence My Muse!
Mine was a slow revelation. It started with plotting short stories. As beginnings stacked up on my hard drive, I became convinced that at least simple plots are the way I work best. I'm rapidly becoming convinced that I must plot books, too. It saves me so much time on the back end. I'm not trying to convince anyone. It's just the way it worked out for me.
Sadly, I think I resisted plotting because it feels suspiciously like Real Work. And in that, I don't think I'm alone.
This process made for an exhausting couple of days, waaay more than simple drafting. But the payoffs and reassurance were grand. I learnt I don't my best thinking with my hands on my keyboard. I actually do my best thinking when I'm just...well, thinking. Thinking via my keyboard is fun; thinking via my brain is hard. I realized (when I came-to on the third day) that the closer writing resembles real work, with all its frustrations, boredom, irritations, and exhaustion, the better the story becomes.
Of course, that's only part of the work. The real work comes when you're trying to figure out what the book's about, what I'm trying to get myself to face up to. With me, when I put all this together, I found a weak link that had everything to do with my lack of brutal honestly with myself. The weakness manifested itself in my antagonist. And I realized the story is only as good as the antagonist. Reconciling that was tough because the Damned Hard Question revolves around the antagonist.
DHQ = my fear and ignorance
Fear and ignorance = antagonist
Unfortunately, I liked my antagonist a little bit too much. She isn't supposed to be "fun." She's supposed to turn your stomach. And to do that, she had to turn mine. Worse, she's going to have to offend some readers who might think people like her are heroes. There was no way she was going to do that how I'd written her. Which meant I wasn't fully committed to my DHQ. I wasn't ready to spend time with someone who turned my stomach.
I think I am now.
And that's how I learned writers are some of the bravest people I know.