On Balance…

I’ve been stressing a lot about where in the story my major events fall.

The major plot points of any novel have a kind of balance to them, if you follow the three-act structure. There’s the inciting incident which occurs at about the 10% mark, the first plot point at 25%, the mid-point at 50%, the second plot point at 75% and the climax at the 90% mark. This structure is sometimes known as the Hollywood formula, as it’s so prevalent in US film-making. But it also has a lot of applicability to fiction writing, especially as a skeleton to hang things on.

I knew the parts of my story weren’t balanced right – everyone who read the first part of the book was telling me that they didn’t know where it was going until chapter 9 (of only 20), so I was doing something wrong.

I frantically searched for books on structure, and ended up listening to an audio book by Michael Hauge and Christopher VoglerThe hero’s 2 journeys’ that finally lit the light-bulb for me (more precisely, Michael’s discussion on the outer journey).

I discovered that I had my 25% plot point occurring at the 40% mark, and my 50% mid-point happening at about the 65% mark… both far too late to keep my readers interested. And also, and probably a lot more importantly, I hadn’t given my heroine a concrete visible goal, which was why my readers couldn’t see where the story was going.

Well, since figuring this out at the beginning of June, I’ve been madly spinning in circles trying to get the events to fall closer to their intended marks, stressing about how to make the story compelling and balanced and therefore satisfying.

Until today, when I ended up hitting my head on the desk several times (metaphorically).

How can I possibly judge the balance of the piece until it’s finished? I won’t know how many chapters or words it will have until I can write ‘the end’ on the damn thing, so why am I worrying about plot points coming late? What if there’s another 60% of the story still to be written? (Gods, I hope not!).

So, while discovering the lack of motivation was a damn good thing, and has utterly refocused me on aiming this story, I’m going to have to relax my grip on the stress of not having the plot points right at the moment. Because it’s rather stupid to do so.

How can I worry about the balance of the piece until I’ve finished the damn thing?

So, now? I’m off to write more!

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