My First Act Is Too Long. Again.

by Shelt Garner

Things are really moving quite well as I transition from first draft to second draft of this novel. As I go through the first draft, I am taken aback by how poorly thought out some of the characters are. And how underdeveloped some elements of the story are overall.

There’s a lot to work with and there’s a grain of something really good floating around in all that crap. I just have to flesh out some of the characters and really heighten the conflict and drama. And, of course, I really need to think long and hard about cause and effect.

That’s something I keep overlooking and having to fix — you can’t just spring shit on the audience. You have to prepare them for it. Or, at least, use foreshadowing to lay the groundwork for a surprise to happen. If you don’t do that, the result can come across as choppy and disjointed. People don’t like things to Just Happen because that’s not how storytelling works.

But anyway, here’s where things stand scene wise per act: 50 / 60 / 30. As you can tell, my first act is way, way, way, too long, at least strictly on a scene count basis. I can futz with this problem some by simply making some scenes shorter and, as such, making sure I get as close as possible to the every-important sweet spot of about 100,000 words.

As it stands, I think I’m probably going to overshoot my goal by a minimum of 20,000 words. But, The Girl On The Train is, as I seem to recall, about 140,000 and that is a first novel, so it’s not impossible for me to pull such a thing off.

I find myself thinking a lot about the second novel in the series. One thing that I’ve really realized is it’s not going to be nearly as easy as I first imagined. I’ve pretty much just got a concept — a baby is stolen — and I have to think up a whole new plot, not just the second half of the first novel that I cut out as part of my transition from first to second draft.

But that’s kind of the fun of it all. I have a very well thought out universe and now I have to think up new and innovative ways to use the elements of that established universe to tell the story I want to tell. It just might take a little bit longer than I originally expected.

And, yet, maybe not.

I now know how *I* develop and write a novel, which speeds up the process considerably. The big issue is figuring out how to tell the best story I can possibly tell as quickly as possible. I still have a faint hope that I could potentially finish three novels and sell them all at the same time like Stieg Larsson did, hopefully without then promptly dying of a heart attack.

Yet, I think I may have to lower my expectations some. Just to finish one novel and get to the point where I feel comfortable to try to get an agent and then see what happens.

My storytelling and writing have improved so much since I began this process. The point is to get something, anything done so I can blow up with my DJ money like I’ve always been fated to do.

Author: Shelton Bumgarner

I am the Editor & Publisher of The Trumplandia Report

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