1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, May 26, 2016.

    I have wrestled with this problem for over three years now. In the following week, I am committed to conquering it and moving on. I need your help.

    First, since we are discussing plot, I want to make it clear that I've tried both planning and pantsing. Pantsing doesn't work for me. It may work for others and, if so, great for them. It doesn't work for me.

    Okay, my WIP is "what if Norse Ragnorok were to occur in today's world?" It presumes that the Norse gods have been born/incarnated on Earth to grow up and become leaders of armies of men. The Norse gods have hidden their identity and powers from their mortal incarnations so as to avoid things like a baby Thor tossing lightning bolts in a temper tantrum. The gods believe that mortal brains can't contain the knowledge of gods. But, the older the incarnates get and the more mature their brains become, the more they become aware of their nature.

    I know that Young Adult novels tend to be between 55,000 - 65,000 words in length.
    Presuming that the average length of one of my scenes is 750 words, that's between 73 - 86 scenes.
    Assuming that the first act is 25% of those scenes, that is 18 - 22 scenes.

    No matter what I do, I cannot figure out how to get 18 to 22 scenes out of the above. It is driving me up the wall with frustration. What's the cure?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen 55k to 80k stated as the average range for YA. But the important thing is that we are talking averages. If it doesn't work for your story, you don't have to stick to it.

    One solution if you have fewer scenes is to make the scenes longer. I just read that first scenes in the YA The Fault in our Stars ran from around 2500 to 3000 words. Those are relatively long scenes, but I think 750 words is on the shorter side. If you want more content but don't want to add scenes you could look at lengthening those.
     
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  3. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    How much of the first act have you written so far? Are you at a point where you have written it out and feel that there just isn't enough there, or are you still at the outline stage? If it is the former, then I would suggest reading through and looking for thin spots. Where could characters be strengthened, where can the stakes be raised, where can energy be generated?

    If it is the latter, then perhaps starting to write will rattle the cage enough for a few more monkeys to start flinging poo. Poo represents good ideas in this hideously tortured metaphor.

    From what I've read in your summary there is quite a lot going on in this first act. You've got a small army of characters to introduce and many subplots at work. I think if you explore all of these potential avenues for conflict and story you will find more than enough material.

    I'm a consummate pantser, so I'm not sure how helpful this will be. Best of luck with your story. I like the concept.
     
  4. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Longer scenes will slow down the pace. It is important to me that the story run fairly quickly with only occasional slowing down.
     
  5. Joe Portes
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    Joe Portes New Member

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    First, and this completely changes your entire story, I want to ask this: have you considered making this a graphic novel? I immendiately thought this premise sounded like it would make a great graphic novel. That would actually fix your problem as well. That would require changing a lot, but the pacing would be quick and you'd still tell the same story. But then, of course, you'd have to eventually rely on an artist. You don't need an artist to write and pitch a graphic novel script, though.

    Now to address your actual question: I'm a bit confused if your issue is you need more or you need to cut down? If your issue is that your first act does not take up enough pages in the manuscript and is far too short in the grand scheme of the whole narrative arc, then I think your problem is actually a bit different. What you've described actually sounds like a lot of stuff going on in the first act. As Matthew stated above me, you've introduced a lot of characters here too. I actually think there's too much going on in the first act, but it's hard to tell from the outline -- I'd have to see the actual writing. The second half of your outline that focuses on Luke sounds more like a first act to me and I don't know if you need much more other than some expository scenes like you mentioned. Now, I agree, it is hard to get a lot of pages out of a little action, but I wouldn't be concerned with slowing down the pace and would instead be concerned with moving too fast. If the writing is strong and compelling then your readers won't mind it being slow. I once read a novel by Nicholson Baker that takes place entirely during on escalator ride. That is 200 pages of a man riding an escalator. Is it boring or slow? Not in the slightest. Baker is an immensely talented writer and makes it work. Be like Baker. Make it work.

    I will also add that I think using outlines can be detrimental. You can't try to force yourself to stick to some plan. Stories should be fluid and organic. I would have some basic idea of what should happen, but never plan out every beat. The characters should inform the plot, not the other way around. I can always tell when a student submits a story to me that was meticulously planned out from point A to B to C, and that often makes the plot points ring false. On the other hand, I force my 101 students to write outlines for their essays. But the difference is one is Creative Writing and one is Essay Writing. Creative Writing is not about planning.

    Lastly, there is a comic book called The Wicked + The Divine that is very similar to your premise (this is not some sort of call-out or anything - it is impossible to come up with something 100% original) and I think you should check it out. Instead of Norse gods it is about all different gods from all cultures and religions. They all inhabit teenagers who then sort of become like pop stars and celebrities. That comic deals with themes of celebrity and fame and stuff of that nature so it's quite different in that sense, but I would absolutely give it a look for some ideas. I'm only a few issues in, but it follows a very basic narrative structure and lets the characters, writing, and artwork do the heavy lifting. Essentially, Lucifer is framed for murder and there's this whole X-men esque backlack against the gods (or mutants in X-men's case) and that mostly covers the all of act one, and sets the story in motion. What makes it interesting, though, is Lucifer herself and the other gods. Lucifer is a wise-cracking, hyper-sexual, female Justin Bieber look-alike lesbian who always wears white suits and can cause heads to explode with the snap of her fingers... that is the story, not the plot. This is the stuff of storytelling; it's about how you tell the story more than what the story is -- at least that's how I feel.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    My goal is to promote reading by young adult males by writing the kinds of books they want to read. Further, I understand that a graphic novel format may well help me reach that goal. However, I take pride in my ability to write descriptions and, particularly, in my ability to write fight scenes. For that reason (and the fact that I know nothing about writing graphic novels), I don’t want to turn this into a graphic novel.
    Yes, that's the issue.
    Then why do I keep coming up short on word length?
    It seems impossible! How is it done?
    As my goal is to promote reading by young adult males by writing the kinds of stories they want to read, I must ask whether it is possible to have too fast a pace for this particular slice of the market?
    How? You are essentially telling a blind man to see color. I don’t know how to even begin doing that.
    Thanks, I’ll check it out.
     
  7. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Write the story from within your POV character's head. Make your story more than an account of what happens, make it an experience of the reactions, opinions, impressions, memories, and thoughts of your POV character as he or she negotiates the world of your story. This will make even the simplest task immersive and will add length.

    Honestly, though, writing more just to add length is a mistake. If you add more, it should be because the addition makes a better story. Your focus should be on telling a good story, not making the story 'long enough.' If you try to add extra things in just to make it longer, your readers will sense this. Tell the story as efficiently as you can while still fully exploring the ideas and themes contained within.
     
  8. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Actually, the story is a series of accounts/positioned object describing experiences told in first person. Who is telling the current account changes and each account starts and ends at different times such that a couple of months of time in the story world is covered. So, the first account is told by Boone (Baldur), the second one is told by Luke (Luke), the third account is told by Donny (Thor), etc. Each character has its own particular "feel" in terms of attitude, word choice, sentence structure, etc. So, the reader will learn of the reactions, opinions, impressions, memories, and thoughts of all the characters eventually.

    Yes, I know that. If I were just adding more words (without a care for whether they make for a better story), adding length would be easy. I have to add length in order to appease the publishers, but that length needs to cover meaningful content.
     

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