Welcome back to Adrienne Giordano – one of Romance Universities founders AND a fantabulous author in her own right! Welcome back A!
Good morning, RU Crew. Those of you who have been hanging around Romance University for a couple of years know I’m a big fan of plot structure. For me, working out the major plot points of my story ahead of time is a blueprint to work from. This post won’t be entirely about plot structure, but before reading on you might want to click here for a quick refresher on terminology I’ll use.
Now, I will out myself. Last week I realized that I (the obsessed author who breaks down her books by how many words should be in each of the three acts) made a mess of the pacing in the vitally important early pages of my work in progress. The good news is my love of plot structure helped me fix it.
Being the plot structure freak I am, I like my first turning point to come at around the 20-25% mark of the book. The midpoint would be at 50% and the black moment would be at the 75% mark. Since the book I’m referring to in this post is one of my Harlequin Intrigues, I’ll use the length of an Intrigue (55,000-60,000 words) to show where the above mentioned milestones should happen.
First Turning Point (20-25% mark) – 12,000-15,000 words
Midpoint (50% mark) – 27,500-30,000 words
Black Moment (75% mark) – 41,250-45,000 words
Last week, while drafting my manuscript, I was well into the second act when I realized my pacing was off. I was about to start the scene I thought would fall at the middle of the book and checked my word count. Up to that point I’d written 34,000 words.
I don’t need to be a math genius to know 34,000 words is more than the halfway mark of a 60,000 word book. The word hog inside me had hijacked my book!
To see where I went astray, I went back through each scene, found my first turning point and checked my total word count up to that point. The beginning of that scene happened at 15,786 words into the book. I generally like my first major milestone to happen closer to the 20% mark, which for this book, would be 12,000 words.
I needed to trim. When that happens I look for multiple scenes that can be combined. I found three scenes to play with. The first was one where my heroine goes to a forensics lab. In the next scene she goes back to her apartment and meets with the hero. After the hero leaves, she works on a sketch (she’s an artist). Some of the material from the lab scene was repeated in the scene where she sketches. A perfect opportunity to trim. I was able to eliminate one scene by deleting all the repeated information and having my heroine work on her sketch while in the lab.
When I finished those edits, I checked my word count again. My first turning point now fell at the 13,940 word mark. By combining two scenes I was able to eliminate 1,846 words from the first quarter of the book.
But I wasn’t done. I’d only eliminated half the amount of words I needed to. I went back through all the scenes after the first turning point to see where I could cut. And there it was. One big, beautifully juicy scene that clocked in at almost 2,000 words. I read that scene three times. I loved it. Still do. But it had to go. Why? Because it didn’t move my plot along. However, some of what was in that scene worked toward the emotional growth of my characters. I highlighted anything related to the internal arc of the characters and copied it into a separate file. Then I found places within the manuscript to sprinkle everything I’d copied.
Using my outline above, here’s what the first half of my manuscript now looks like:
First Turning Point (20-25% mark) – 13,940 words
Midpoint (50%) – 27,694 words
Black Moment (75%) – Not there yet! I’m right on track though if the word hog doesn’t hijack my book again.
I know this method might not work for everyone, but I wanted to share this with you to show how using basic plot structure (even if you’re a pantser) can help keep a book humming along.
RU Crew, what tricks do you use to identify scenes that can be eliminated?
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Bio: USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. For more information on Adrienne’s books, please visit www.AdrienneGiordano.com. Adrienne can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AdrienneGiordanoAuthor, Twitter at http://twitter.com/AdriennGiordano and Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/AdrienneGiordano. For information on Adrienne’s street team, Dangerous Darlings, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/dangerousdarlings.
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