1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    First Act drolldums

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, Apr 15, 2015.

    Industry standard for a YA novel is about 70,000.
    Scenes I write tend to be about 750 words.
    So, I need about 93 scenes. Let's call it 80 scenes since many scenes will have sequels.
    That's about 20 scenes in the first act.
    That's a huge number of scenes before the conflict is introduced and the story actually starts running at the end of the first act. 20 torturous scenes in which the reader is asked to wait while all the characters, the setting, the theme, etc. get introduced.
    What's the trick to keeping readers hooked while waiting for the end of the first act?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you're waaaaaaay overthinking this. For one thing, don't determine the number of scenes you need by acts and arithmetic. Why on Earth do you think you need 20 scenes in the first act?

    You might want to try starting your writing with the second act. Just jump into the story and run with it. When you're done, go back and see what you need to put into a first act - the minimum amount - and write that then.

    Your arithmetical approach to planning your novel will cripple you. Abandon that line of thinking entirely. Get your pen on the page and write your story. :)
     
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  3. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    For future reference, it's 'doldrums'. I can't really answer your question, since I've never divided a novel into acts and scenes. Why do you? Why can't the first, say, ten 'scenes' complete the opening?
     
  4. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the exact scene and act allocation is more applicable for scripts than novels, and even then it should be applied loosely. Feel free to not follow any type of 26%/56%/18% word-per-act model... Also, I think you're understanding the first wrong. Traditionally, the first act would end when the protagonist has finally decided to pursue his desire. Plenty of conflict can and should have already happened, including an introduction of the central conflict. The intrigue of meeting new characters, new settings, and new conflicts keeps the intrigue in the first act, so you're right in that no conflict would equal no interest.
     
  5. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    But, the word count guidelines set by publishers is a real thing. I have to meet those guidelines or I'm facing a hell of a time getting accepted by publishers.
     
  6. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Thank you, Ben. I understand now. *mops brow* That's a relief.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write YA, and I don't think in terms of acts, or scenes, or anything else nearly that structured.

    Start your story where things change. One of the joys of YA is that it gets right to the point and doesn't mess around with extra stuff.

    In terms of word count? 70K is a good average, but I think you could go 15K on either side without too much trouble. Depends a bit on what genre of YA, but there's a fair range of lengths.
     
  8. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I think I do it for two reasons. One, I'm an INTP on the Myer's-Briggs chart (whatever the validity of their chart is, INTP describes me pretty well). Two, my paying job (before I became disabled anyway) was a cross between software architect and system security guy. So, my brain is used to taking a top down approach to designing things.
     
  9. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with whoever said don't overthink it. For one - not all of your scenes need to be the same length. Too, word count does not need to be EXACT. It's a guideline not a gospel. Also your ACTS don't have to be the same length. Actually a lot of models I've seen make the second act longer than either the first or third.

    Lastly, and most importantly, you're asking yourself questions now that are better asked on revision. Once you have a finished story, then you a can go back, mess with the structure, decide where you need more and where you need to trim. Not that you can't do that a bit on the front end, most outliners do at some level, but don't try to revise something that hasn't even been written. Heck I know in my stuff I often realize I missed something earlier and write new scenes that get shoved chapters behind where I am in the main writing.
     
  10. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    My concern here has been alleviated, but I want to point out that 80 total scenes with 20 in the first act means that only 25% of the total is in the first act.

    That is a lesson I definitely need to learn. :)
     
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