Pushing Through the Third Act
While I wouldn’t say I “blaze through” every book I work on, I definitely try to keep up a good pace. I like to finish a book before I’ve had a chance to talk myself out of it, before I grow to hate it, before (and it’s a silly fear, I know, but a fear nonetheless) someone else writes it.
Excitement and love (and that touch of fear) carry me through the first and second acts. I’m amazed at my own brilliance. I write funny scenes that make me laugh out loud, tragic scenes that stun me with their beauty, surprising scenes that, even with my little outline, not even I saw that coming.
And then I hit the third act. Facing the end of my book is like the penultimate mile in a 5k (from what I hear. I have never participated in one)—it’s the dark moment, when I start to feel that no matter how far I’ve come already, that last bit is impossible, and I have to force myself to pick up my feet and KEEP GOING.
So, here are Some Common Third Act Neuroses and Possible Antidotes:
*the ending is predictable, because, after all, I’ve seen it coming (on my handy-dandy rough outline) for about 50,000 words. Surely everyone else will see it coming, too.
Possible Antidote: It’s okay to take a little time (whatever this means to you—to my impatient brain a “little” time means about twenty-four hours) to brainstorm alternate endings. Try moving it to a different setting. Try adding crazy weather, or switch up the bad guy, or have somebody die unexpectedly. But KEEP GOING.
*the ending isn’t big enough. I tend to pull punches, holding back when everything could be made bigger and more epic, probably because by now I’ve run out of steam.
Possible Antidote: I can make it bigger later. KEEP GOING.
*not everything gets figured out in the end.
Possible Antidote: I need to give myself a break. This is a FIRST DRAFT. Perfectionism has no place here. Make a note in brackets, like [oh, I forgot about the dead sister coming back to life and trying to eat the MC’s brains], and KEEP GOING.
*the story isn’t long enough, like it’s 30,000 words and supposed to be a novel, not a novella.
Possible Antidote: I have to accept that I write spare first drafts, with lots of dialogue and telling because I chase that high of watching the plot unfold, and I've never been much into description. It’s okay to have a 30k first draft. KEEP GOING.
We all have our weak moments when drafting a new book (and if YOU don’t ever have weak moments, could you please just keep that to yourself?). Sometimes these moments can be predictable, and other times they seem to come out of nowhere. Sometimes they’re merely annoying, and other times they paralyze us. When it comes to first drafts, for me it’s about writing through it, pushing through those doubts and questions. (So far. Who knows what my next first draft will bring?)
And please remember there is no wrong way to write a story. I feel like I should end every blog post with that sentence. There is no wrong way to write a story. Just get it down, friends.
ALSO—Veronica’s e-novella, BROOKE, a part of the Under the Never Sky sequence, is out today! Brooke is one of those fascinating side characters I am always wanting to know more about, and finally she gets her own story. Congrats, V!