Life in Three Acts

I know what you’re thinking:  what, no writing again?  Yeah, that’s been happening of late as I’ve really been in the middle of some intense socializing for the first time in months.  Actually, it’s been kinda the perfect storm of interaction of late, with my trip back to Indiana, meeting people there, then doing things on this end–yep, that actually leaves a few holes in the writing schedule.  But I’ve needed the interaction for a while, and it’s helping me recharge a little.  Actually, I was a bit weepy for the most part yesterday, and getting together with someone for dinner helped bring me out of that funk.

It was either that or spend all my time crying while writing.

But this is a good time to get into something else that’s important to writing, or at least to my writing.  And that’s to answer the question, “Why do you lay things out the way you lay them out?”  Besides the answer, “Because I’m strange,” it’s really due in part to helping me keep action organized in a format that’s fairly well-known to writers around the world.

First off, let’s speak of something known as three act structure.  This is probably one of the most basic of all writing tools that’s used in so many stories that once you start getting heavy into reading the works of others, you’ll recognize it immediately.  Stephen King employed it to good use in most of his novels, particularly with The Stand and IT, and Joss Whedon has used this in both his Avenger movies.

The set up is easy:  the story is broken into three acts, often known as the Setup, the Confrontation and the Resolution.  The Setup is mostly exposition, where the story is set up, the character met, backgrounds laid out, and so on.  The Confrontation is just that:  the challenges are met and things start getting a little dicey.  The last act is the Resolution, where everything is tidied up and the hero–or heroes–walk off into the sunset victorious–or in a case of a couple of kids separated by the continent of Europe, they go home and get sad.

I had this structure in my last night, A For Advanced, because, really, it helped determine how I should sell the book when I sell the book.

I have the same thing in the current novel, 'cause why get rid of a good thing?

I have the same thing in the current novel, ’cause why get rid of a good thing?

The first time I used the three act structure was Kolor Ijo.  My characters meet in the first act and find out what’s happening.  In act two things ramp up, and in act three the move in together and take on the big bad.  That worked well enough that I decided to keep it for The Foundation Chronicles novels, while at the same time divided the story up even further.

In these two novels, acts are broken into parts that are basically a collection of interrelated things.  Let’s look below:

Hey, looks like there's a dance going on.

Hey, looks like there’s a dance going on.

Part Four, Under Pressure, deals with events in Annie’s and Kerry’s lives that affect them in different ways.  Those events becomes chapters, which contain the telling of those events.  Samhain Festivities is an event that’s good for Annie and Kerry together.  The Manor Called is something that affects Annie, and From Queens to Dreams affects Kerry.  The last, Restricted Dreamspace, is something that again affects them both, and sends Annie off asking questions.

And lastly I have scenes, and this seems to be the place where a lot of people look at me and go, “Huh?”  Since I think of my story in somewhat cinematic terms, a scene, to me, is a segment of a chapter relating to a particular event, like one would see in a movie or television show.  Let’s go back to the first Avengers movie.  You start out with the Tesseract acting up and Nick Fury coming to see what the hell is happening; that’s a scene.  Loki appears, gets his meat puppets, and scoots with the loot; that’s a scene.  There’s the chase out of the facility as everyone finished packing their shit and leaving before it all blows up and Loki vanishes with the goods; that’s a scene, and the end of a chapter.

I do the same above.  Kerry finds out he’s on the A Team–scene.  The A Team meets–scene.  They start the race–scene.  They end the race–scene.  Off to the dance and meet the other students–scene.  While Kerry dances, Annie talks–scene.  It’s all part of the festivities, and if I wanted to I could break those up between the Samhain Races and the Samhain Dance, and I may do just that when I get home.  This is why I like Scrivener, because it allows me that freedom, and given that I transition sharply from the race to the dance, it’s possible they could be two separate chapters.

That’s how I do thing, but more importantly, why I do it that way.  It also helps me keep things neat and organized, even if it looks like a huge mess.  Then again, this is what I used project management software to write my novels.

It helps keep the insanity to a minimum.

A Samhain Coming

Welcome to Act Two!  Yes, it’s true:  I started last night.  Not in a big way, but the ball is rolling.

Before I start I should tell you I went out last night and had dinner to celebrate one year of hormone replacement therapy, and enjoyed a beverage at the same time.

As you can see, it's not a Frappuccino.

As you can see, it’s not a Frappuccino.

That’s a year down and a year to go, but I only need see my doctor three more times before she’s finished with me.  In fact, I’ll see her the Monday after I return from my little side trip to Indiana next week, then not again until January, and then not again until next July.  After that I’m considered a “graduate” of Transition University, I believe, and all that remains from that point on is surgery.

Let’s talk about the story, however.

It’s Samhain, as I mention in the novel.  Actually, it’s the Samhain celebration, because the real Samhain isn’t for a few days.  We already know there’s a costume dance in the evening, an bonfires down in the meadow, but the biggest event going on that day is the racing.  It’s one of the few times when all five covens get a chance to run wild in the streets and go at each other as much as possible.

As I’d mentioned, there was a bit of set up work I needed to finished, and that involved getting the Cernunnos Race team finished, and laying out how the competition would work out.  That took a few hundred words and a bit of brain power, but I got it finished.

Can't tell your covens without a scorecard.

Can’t tell your covens without a scorecard.

What I have here is my binder on the left, the scene next to that on the right, my racing grid layout to the right of the scene, and on the very right my notes on the scene.  You see both the A and B Teams, and if they seem a little boy heavy, you’re not wrong:  in this world Cernunnos is the one coven that fields more boys than girls.  Must be that horned god thing going on .

You can see the gird I’ve laid out, with five heats total.  Most of the time the teams are running in head-to-head heats, until you get to Heat 4, and then they throw three teams on the course at once and let them race it out.  The Blackbirds of Mórrígan are the current leaders in the coven standing, so they sit out the first heat and then race one-on-one against another coven, finally getting the last race of the day.

The idea with setting up an example was to ensure that every coven got three races:  that way points aren’t all over the place, and a coven can’t say that they were screwed.  It is true that the teams who’ll get the best point advantage are the top two:  the three who race in Heat 4 have to fight harder to get a similar allocation–more teams, same number of positions for points–so they get screwed just a little.

And the scoring system used for normal racing is the same as the one used by Formula One during the years 1991 to 2002:

1st: 10
2nd: 6
3rd: 4
4th: 3
5th: 2
6th: 1

The only actual change in the scoring is during Heat 4–or whenever there are more than two covens on the course–and that’s when they use the Formula One scoring system used from 2003 to 2009:

1st: 10
2nd: 8
3rd: 6
4th: 5
5th: 4
6th: 3
7th: 2
8th: 1

There you go:  my racing setup.  It’s all set, just like the novel–

To do and not to do:  that is the question.

To do and not to do: that is the question.

That said, I look at Chapter Ten and realized I need to add two more scenes . . .

The Pain of the Past and the Future of Uncertainty 

Today is a rough day.  Today is the day after my latest electrolysis treatment, and let me tell ya, it was a wild one.

I made it through:  I made it through the full two hours and I didn’t cry, though I twitched and squirmed and even hissed and shook a little.  But I finished, I paid, and I made it home–

Though it does look a bit like a tornado tore across my face.

Though it does look a bit like a tornado tore across my face.

The women who does my work said she couldn’t believe how much she accomplished, and I believe it, because I was there.  And don’t be fooled by that smug look:  I was really out of it right there.  I didn’t do much writing because it was hard keeping my head in the game.  I managed three hundred words right on the dot, with the last one being, “What?”  That coming from a student who just sort of burst out.  In Sorcery class.  In front of Helena.  It won’t go well.

But–out of it.  Right.  I was out of it, and spent about a half hour in front of the television icing my face.  I was so out of it that when I started changing for work this morning, I realized I’d put on my pajama bottoms backwards, and had slept in them that way.  But I’m much better now.  Sort of.  It’s just a good thing it was cool outside, ’cause the walk in would have been brutal otherwise.

However, the walk in did allow me to think–and I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.  The last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about Annie and Kerry and their future together–don’t worry, it’s not bad.  It’s just filling in a few blanks that I’ve had, and fleshing out some areas that I knew of, but I wanted to get better.  I’ve actually started taking note for this stuff, because I have too many things to remember, and it’s starting to spill out.

Like this morning.  Yes, I’m looking through things prior to writing, and I pull up the story and all of a sudden I’m thinking, “Hey, you know, I want to add too scenes, but . . . where to put them?”  Then I’m looking around the scenes and I hit one chapter and think, “What he hell was this about again?”  Because I hadn’t written down anything to remind me what was happening at that point.  So I had to pull up my time line for the story, because I knew it would have some information, and sure enough, it told me what I needed to remember.  I wrote down those notes with the promise of fleshing it out a little more, because the actions in one scene set up something that’s going to happen in a later scene.

As for those new scenes–

I'm looking at you, future chapters.

I’m looking at you, future chapters.

I think one of the new scenes is gonna happen in Chapter Twelve, and will be the first one.  It makes sense because I know what happens in From Green to Dream, and setting up the lead-in with a conversation between the two people in the new scene would fit there well.  As for the other new scene–it just came to me where it should go.  Because it makes sense.

So . . . get through this day, heal up, feel better, write more.

Make notes.

Should I leave myself a note to do that last?

Imaginary Journeys Past and Future

Back to work for a short time yesterday before heading out to get labs and dinner after almost twenty-four hours of fasting–a certainty that I’m back in The Burg and getting into my normal routine once more.  This also means that I’m back to the plotting and  planning and whatnot, and you’re right if you said I was up to something last night.

Most of the evening was taken up getting the last of the tour of Europe I’m sending my kids on in their future finished.  It wasn’t hard, believe me, because there were only three other cities to visit, with a stopover in Brno for a quick early lunch and a fast dart around the track before heading off to Vienna.

Who do you think won that race?  Wanna take bets?

Who do you think won that race? Wanna take bets?

It was a good thing I decided to plan out this trip, because it showed me where I could expand the stay overs to allow them their fifty days on the road.  It also allowed me to figure out where they were going to stay while roaming about Europe, and looking up hotels and imagining them waking up to see a Paris side street, or the historical square of Prague, or the blue Danube flowing past, was part of the entertainment that comes from putting stuff like this together.

Which is how I go from this--

Which is how I go from this–

To this.

To this.

And you should see the Junior Suites at the Hotel de L’Europe.  Oi.  Those kids got taste.

What does the whole trip look like?  A bit like this:

All through Europe, there and back again.

All through Europe, there and back again.

One of the last legs of this journey has them flying from Budapest to Sofia while following the course of the Danube for most of the way.  They end up spending about four hours in the air, their longest leg after the first.  Like with some of the other cities, staying in Sofia allows Annie the chance to show Kerry around the city and the country beyond.  It’ll also be a little comforting to her, to spend a few days in her home country before heading off for that lake house not far from her parent’s house.

And what happens after they arrive there?  I know what happens, but you’ll have to wait until I write the D Level novel to find out what goes down.  I’m just not telling you, at least not now.  All you need to know right now is that Kerry somehow ends up at Annie’s home in Pamporovo, he’s got his Espinoza, and he’s not afraid to use it.

But before I can get to D, I gotta get through B . . .

I checked my blog this morning and notice the countdown timer has changed–

I'm into days now!

I’m into days now!

Thirty days to go, and I wonder if when it gets down to less than a day if it’ll go to hours.  Doesn’t matter:  the time is set and it’s a go.  I will try to, at the least, finish the first scene, and perhaps the second and third as well.  The first scene starts off with Kerry back home, and then it goes from . . . there.  What happens next?

You’ll see in a month.

After the Turnpike Shuffle

Here I am, more or less safe and sound, back in the old homestead of Indiana.  Let me tell you, it was a wild ride yesterday.

As I may have indicated I started out from Harrisburg about midnight, so by about five in the morning, after only about, oh, no sleep in almost twenty-four hours, I was completely out of it.  I ended up stopping at the service plaza after the one where I posted yesterday’s blog entry, used the bathroom, and slept in the car for a little over an hour.  Outside.  In the cold.  Wrapped up in my jacket.  I’ve done worse, trust me.

Lack of sleep was probably one of the reasons I seemed to get through western Ohio pretty fast, because I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the road before me.  But I made it back to Valparaiso with almost no gas in the car, managed to get unpacked, and napped for almost another hour before taking my shot.

And got the picture in my HRT folder just so I can see how I keep changing.

And got the picture in my HRT folder just so I can see how I keep changing.

I was exhausted though, and was asleep by nine-thirty at night here, or ten-thirty back home, and only woke up once to use the bathroom before crawling out of bed at a little after seven in the morning, or eight back in The Burg.  That’s a good rest for me–

Oh, I should mention, I edited last night.

Really, would you expect anything less?

Really, would you expect anything less?

I did chapters Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three, and started falling asleep as I looked over Chapter Twenty-Four, the penultimate chapter.  It’s because of that last–the falling asleep part–that I decided to call it a night and slink off to bed.

(Just a bit of trivia now:  while Chapter Twenty-Four, the next to last chapter, is known as the penultimate chapter, Chapter Twenty-Three is known as the antepenultimate chapter, Chapter Twenty-Two is the preantepenultimate chapter, and Chapter Twenty-One is the propreantepenultimate chapter.  The Coda is the ultimate chapter, naturally.  Now go forth and amuse your friends.)

I’m happy with how the edit has gone, and I’ll likely do another fast pass through the story before getting to the final draft.  It’s clean, and being as short as it is–just under seventy thousand words–I can give it a read-through in about two weeks.  Bit I will feel far more comfortable with on more pass through the story before I decide it’s ready to upload to Smashwords and ready for publication.

Today I do laundry and a few other things, and I finish Kolor Ijo for sure.  It’s almost ready, and I think it’s a good addition to my tiny catalog of publications.  I’m thinking more about B For Bewitching, and I know I’ll work on the Annie and Kerry Euro Trip time line some, probably this afternoon, because I’m itching to do that.

Oh, and another picture:

Behold the horror of morning without makeup!

Behold the horror of morning without makeup!

Yeah, just to show people I’m alive, I snapped this about forty minutes ago, after a bushed my teeth and shaved.  (Yes, I still do that–bummer.)  No makeup, nothing used to bring out my face, and I’m still in my pajamas.  This is how I look while I’m typing this line . . .

Hope I didn’t scar you with that image.  Haha!

Time Into the Grind

This has started out to be a strange, busy week.  I have a number of things to finish up at work, but none of them really require me to spend more than an hour or so here or there working on them.  I was in a bit of a panic over something that happened to a friend yesterday, and discovered later that it was really nothing.  I’m preparing to head back to Indiana for a week, and dreading the time I’ll spend on the road, and even a little of the time back home, because I know it’ll be full of stress.

And I’m looking at what I have for writing.

I finished up a rather large chapter of Kolor Ijo last night, and I have another to do tonight and another to do in a few days, but the tale of the tape shows there are five chapters–including the one I should do tonight–and about sixteen thousand words ahead of me remaining, and then the pass through this edit is over.  I was fortunate that I’d figured out the mystery ahead of time, because it made things easier when it came to writing it out, and I don’t have any discernible plot holes staring me in the face.  Given the amount of work left, I will finish Kolor Ijo this weekend.  And then come the question–

"Should I call her maybe?"

“Should I call her maybe?”

Uh, no:  not that one.  It’s the one about what comes next.  The one I’m always having.

This is where I need to get disciplined about what to do, because there’s more to writing and, um, writing.  Creating is one thing, but getting that creation out there for people to see is another, and I’m solely lacking in the later.  Since 2011 I’ve only managed to publish three things, and nothing new has gone out in three years.  That wasn’t my real plan when I started on this trip, and getting behind another big project is going to press me further from getting another work out there.  It’s great to be writing, but it’s also great to have people reading your writing.  And plopping down a few coins for the pleasure of doing so.

Hate to say it, but concentrating on writing three stories–a novelette and two novels–in the last two years has pushed everything to the back burner.  And while the urge to get into writing another novel is high, the urge to get something out for people to buy is even higher.  And it’s needed, because I can’t keep working in a vacuum with my writing.

It’s my intention to stick to my schedule as I planed it a few weeks back:  continue editing Kolor Ijo and get it ready for publication.  Now that I have B For Bewitching mostly plotted out, I can start the process of working it out in my head even more, so that when I do begin writing, I’ll know the literary route I must take.  Really, the most difficult thing I’m dealing with now if finding covers for my books, but I’m working on that, trust me–

I’m guessing that if any new writing starts, it’ll come around the first of May.

That gives me a whole month to get organized . . .

Be End of the B

It seems like not too long ago I said I was going to go ahead and start plotting out the next Foundation novel, probably some time in May.  And it wasn’t too long after that when I mentioned on this blog when I mentioned that I’d started said plotting, mostly because I wanted to get started on that.

And now I can tell you I’m finished, most or less, with the major plot out.  This is what happens when you have these things in your head and they want out:  you can’t say no to them.

I have finished Parts Ten and Eleven, and that’s all there is, folks.  One change I made was moving Part Seven to Act Two, so that now Act One is Parts One, Two, and Three, and Acts Two and Three have four parts each.  There are thirty-two chapters, which are ten fewer than the last novel.  Still, after looking at what I did today, I added fourteen scenes to the story, bringing the total, so far, to one hundred and twenty-nine scenes.  I’ll likely add a few more along the way, so I’m guessing the novel will top out around one hundred and thirty-five scenes, which should work out to an estimated two hundred thousand words.  Only about half the last novel, but still . . . it’s a lot of words.

I’m still thinking a quarter of a million is going to be more the real length.

Let’s see what we have.  Here’s Part Ten.

Sort of looks like May is here.

Sort of looks like May is here.

As you may remember, 3 May is Kerry’s birthday, so there are a few scenes dealing with that event, just as there is a chapter dealing with Annie’s birthday.  This is something that will show up in every novel, because if there is one thing these two kids need, it’s birthday time together.  And the scene Tag-a-Long . . . That will be the last time Emma is in a scene, and probably the last time any flying is observed.  And Kisses at My Madness–the time means something, it really does.  And it’s something that’s going to happen in a later novel as well.  It’s even going to become a tradition of sorts between these two . . .

After that we have The Three Bindings, and when I speak about something happening a while back in this novel that changes everything with these kids, this is where they get into details on that.  It’s also where Erywin talks about shenanigans, and Deanna says something to Annie that makes her blush, so it must be good.  I expect Sitting by Sunset to be something short and sweet, and perhaps the moment where the kids are absolutely certain about their future–or at least the future they know they could have.

Then there’s Part Eleven–

It's one more, it's the end!

It’s one more, it’s the end!

The two chapters deal with two days.  Chapter Thirty-One deals with the departure from the school and the night Annie and Kerry spend before flying back to Europe, while Chapter Thirty-Two deals with the flight back, the arrival in Germany, and Kerry’s return home.  Annie’s last scene is the penultimate scene–which translate as “Goodbye For Now”–but she’s going to do something before leaving that will be far different than how she acted in Amsterdam when she said goodbye to her soul mate.

As you can see by the notes on the right side of the screen–said notes attached to the scene After Breakfast Jaunt–I’ve figured out the time in four different cities in four different time zones.  That’s how when I get to the penultimate scene I know the time in all four of the locations selected.  I’ll have to show you how I do that one day.

That’s it, she’s finished.  As I said, I’ll probably add a few more scenes in time, maybe as I write, but for now this is the layout for the next big project.

And I’m already thinking about that . . .