WIP: Week Three. Act One.

WIP: Week Three. Act One.

‘Agents of the Truth’ is coming along. I am now up to 20,000 words and am halfway through chapter eight. I had intended to reach 25,000 and the end of act one, but I may go over that target, which means we might be in for a longer novel. Either that, or there will be lots to edit. It’s zipping along, though, as per my usual style. Plenty of intrigues, some pressures building in the background for the characters to be challenged with later. I’ve also dropped clues for later (and noted them so I don’t forget to resolve them), and there has been some humour.

You might wonder what I mean by ‘Act One’, so let me explain. I’ve picked up the term from my screenplay writing, because films are all about structure, and are divided into acts. I have several books on the subject, and if you want to know more, I suggest two:

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler Mythic Structure for Writers

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

Here they are on my shelf beside my Jackson Marsh collection. Ann Zouroudi, who writes the Greek Detective Mysteries published by Bloomsbury, gave me the Vogler book, so it has a special place on my shelf. It’s a great book for understanding the journey of a hero through a classic story, which he breaks down into acts. The Aronson one is more filmmaking centred, and discusses other structures besides the four-act structure I favour. Both are invaluable for plotting, character arcs, and structure, whether for film or fiction.

Act One

I’ve read many discussions of the four-act structure of storytelling, and when you know what they are, you recognise them in films. A standard film script will be roughly 20 pages for each act, leading to an 80-page script, with each page being one minute of screen time. During that time, things happen that turn the plot and move things forward, and they always happen at the end of acts. I’m referring to the plot there, but along with the plot, a character will also develop, and that process goes through several stages of the four acts. (We’ll have a quick look at that in a moment.)

We often refer to act one to as ‘The normal world’, where everything is in its place and the hero/heroine is undisturbed. Then, a challenge comes along, he resists it, gets mentored, accepts it, and ‘steps over the threshold’ into the new and unexplored world of act two… and off we go. That’s known as the reluctant hero’s journey beginning. In my Clearwater world, the heroes are rarely reluctant, but I still use the same basic structure.

Without giving away too much, ‘Agents of the Truth’ starts out in Archer’s normal world, a villain makes a subtle appearance, the men at the academy are existing in their normal world too, but then one or two are asked to assist with something outside of their usual day-to-day. They accept the challenge, and away we go. Simple?

You can rest assured it won’t be!

Four Acts

Think of any standard horror film and you’ll easily be able to identify your four acts. Crudely put, they run like this.

Act 1, There is no shit

Act 2, What is this shit?

Act 3, What do we do about this shit?

Act 4, Shit dealt with

Or to use Titanic a more gentille example, with the end of act turning points:

Act 1, People board the Titanic, and it sets off

Act 2, Rose and Jack get it together, ship hits iceberg

Act 3, Ship is sinking, panic, ship sinks

Act 4, Jack dies, stories resolve, Rose dies

20,000 words

Having written many books and screenplays in the four-act structure, I now find I don’t need to remind myself of turning points, character arcs and so on. They come naturally to me, although they are always at the back of my mind. So, having reached 20,000 words and approached my end of act one target, I find I will go beyond it. That’s fine, the novel can be longer, or it can be cut, because I have not yet reached the turning point that will take us into act two.

In terms of writing, I should have written 25 or 30,000 words by now, but in the last couple of days, a few home-life things got in the way. I.e. Needing a new washing machine, having to take some paid work to make money, cooking a chocolate mousse, etc.

So, I shall leave this here, and get back to ‘Agents of the Truth’ (I like the title more each day), and I’ll see you on Saturday when there will be an interview with one of my characters. Dalston Blaze will be along to talk about his life in the workhouse, his love for Joe Tanner, and his move to the Larkspur Academy. I hope to see you then.

WIP: Week Two, Plotster and Panster


WIP: Week Two, Plotster and Panster

I am in my second week of writing Larkspur Three. I have the working title, ‘Agents of the Truth’, and I am currently halfway through chapter five of the first draft. I don’t know if you remember, but last week I said that I had plotted the four acts of this story, and was wondering what was going to take up the middle two. Well, now I find I have plenty going on in the middle two acts, and at the end, but not so much in the first quarter. Maybe what I mean is I have too many ideas for the middle and just enough for the first and last, but that, for me, is the point of a first draft. As you may know, I live by the maxim:

Don’t get it right, get it written (and then get it right).

And that’s the point of a first draft. Tell yourself a story and then perfect it. You can’t edit a blank page, so write something.

In this case, I have written nearly five chapters, but I shan’t tell you what’s happening, as that’s not the point of WIP Wednesdays. The point of this blog is to tell you how I am writing it, and to catch you up on any other news, books-wise or personal, and that, I shall do at the end.

Plotster/Pantster

When I first hear these two words, I had to scramble around to find out what they meant, and once I’d done that, they were obvious.

Plotster. Someone who plots a story before writing it.

Panster. Someone who makes it up as they go along.

I am a hybrid because I do both, but why ‘they’ don’t just use plotter and freestyle is beyond me.

In the case of ‘Agents’, as we will call the WIP, I needed facts at my fingertips because the story involved eight murders over 10 years, and some of the details were discussed in ‘Keepers of the Past’, therefore, I needed consistency. Along with those notes, I plotted a basic outline because there are to be two points of view; one MC remaining in Cornwall while the second MC heads to London, and I need a timeline so I know where and when everyone is. There is also a deadline and I have a date for that (October 31st 1890), so, I thought, I need to plan every day of the story.

Well, I don’t actually, because I can always go back and redate the chapters if I need to, as long as I am not relying on a factual event that took place on a specific date in 1890, and so far, I am not.

I am, however, usually more of a panster, and I am being one in the case of ‘Agents’ — to a certain degree. I have a timeline, I know how I want Act 1 to end, and I know what the middle-point twist is at the end of Act 2, what the crisis is at the end of Act 3 and what the climax is during Act 4, but I haven’t yet thought of the details. Much of that will come from the characters as I put them together and let them lead while using their own reasoning. Example: I might think it best that characters A and B do this… But, when the dialogue and action are flowing, one of them may come up with another idea and they end up doing that

That’s happened to me before. I get so into a scene, I let it run away from me, but I keep typing and let the characters talk and interact, and usually, I end up with a twist or turn I’d not thought of. I know it still comes from me, but when you free yourself from the plotster stricture, you can do more inventive things.

And that’s where I am right now with ‘Agents’, banging through draft one, and currently at… [does a quick check] …11,160 words. Oh, that’s not bad, actually. I usually aim for the first act to end around 25,000 words, so I am nearly halfway through the first quarter of the book.

I’ll chat about the four-act structure another time. For now, here’s some random book and home news.

See below

Book and Home

In the book department, ‘Keepers of the Past’ shot to #6 in Amazon’s LGBTQ/Historical ranking within a couple of days of release. I now have three titles in the top 100, and that’s great news.

Symi yesterday morning

Meanwhile, at home, I’ve started taking myself off for a couple of miles walking in the morning. This is after I’ve done a little freelance work, and before I sit down to do chatty blogs and write chapters. I like to go as soon as it’s light, and before I get stuck into creative writing, because then I have the rest of my day free. I usually take the same route, but I’ll post the odd photo now and then so you can see what I am looking at while I walk and plot the next chapter. Talking of which…

Back to work.

See you on Saturday for my next blog post.

WIP Blog: Starting a New Blog Day and a New Novel.

WIP Blog: Starting a New Blog Day and a New Novel.

I am adding a new day to my weekly blog. The Saturday blog will remain as it is, with general updates, interviews with other authors, notes about research and so on, but I am now adding a Wednesday WIP.

A Wednesday WIP?

Each week on Wednesday, I’ll blog about my current work in progress, my WIP. This will give you a weekly, blow-by-blow account of what I am writing and how. Don’t worry, there will be no plot spoilers, and the posts may be brief, but you will be able to follow the writing process with me.

So, where to start?

Keepers of the Past

I’ll start by telling you I have just been through the print version of ‘Keepers of the Past’, the second Larkspur Mystery. The lovely people at Other Worlds Ink are seeing to the book layout as I write, and the novel is due to be released this weekend. Check back on Saturday for more news. As I have just finished the second part of the mystery series, it’s time to start on the next, and I began last Sunday, sitting at my desk with a new notebook made and given to me by a friend.

I usually use a standard notebook in which I scribble ideas as I write. As I read back sections of a draft, I add notes such as ‘CHECK griped’ because I notice I’ve spelt a word incorrectly (it should be gripped) and, when I have all separate chapters together in one document at the end of a draft, I can then run a find command and double-check every instance of the misspelt word. I have a list of my most common typos, form instead of from, etc., and I add to this list when I notice a new one, and run the find command for all of them.

I also make notes of details that I later transfer to my ‘bible’, in this case, the Clearwater/Larkspur bible where I have noted everything from characters’ ages to eye colour, supporting cast per story, who was working at Larkspur in what year, dates of birth and all that jazz.

As I am starting Larkspur Three, and as the new, customised notebook was gifted recently, I thought now was a good time to start using it. It already contains some WIP notes.

Larkspur Three

This novel will grow out of ‘Keepers of the Past.’ That story ends with a couple of unanswered questions, and they will form the backbone of Larkspur Three, as yet untitled. I am considering ‘Agents of the Truth’, but it’s not sitting comfortably. I was thinking of the first three novels as being a trilogy within the longer series, and as we’ve had guardians and keepers, poor and past, I wanted a similar title, preferably with the last word beginning with the letter P, and the first having something to do with protecting.

The title will come to me as I write the story.

Starting the WIP

Work on L3 began a couple of days ago, and I already have a few pages of notes. Some I’ve titled ‘Random Ideas’, and I add to them as they occur. Other pages include a timeline of events from the past, for reference and accuracy, a list of pressures to apply to the main characters, and one double-page spread is a rough, four-act timeline. I’ve included a photo, but you won’t be able to enlarge it because I don’t want you to see the plot.

I know how the story will start, I know what will happen at the climax, and I know who my lead characters are (James Wright and Dalston Blaze leading on one storyline, Archer leading on the other, and when I say leading, I mean they are the point of view characters). I already have ideas for challenges and events for the middle section, and a note of what I need to research.

In this case, popular costumes of late Victorian masquerade balls, sects, rituals, and the etiquette of a royal event. That should keep me busy.

So, the first notes of this WIP were made on November 1st, and chapter one, a newspaper report, has been drafted. As soon as ‘Keepers of the Past’ is done and up on Amazon, I will start the story proper and chapter two.

Check in next week for a Wednesday WIP update, but don’t forget the regular Saturday blog.