Solving the 50%-75% Blues

I have been really struggling with this story…

The next time, I’m going to do my outlining on draft / iteration 0, rather than on draft / iteration 3 which is what I’m trying to do currently…

I wrote the draft 0 of this book (book 1) for NaNoWriMo back in November of 2009. In the first six months of 2010, I took it through iterations 1 and 2 (see this blog post), for 2/3 of the story, but the last third was left in summary for the large part. I just didn’t have the skill to take it further back then.

Starting in (December? 2012) I started reverse engineering the plot, and trying to find out how to polish this into publishable format… And I found most of the first half solid. I detailed here about finding the total lack of a concrete goal for my story, but since I now have that, I’d hoped that it would have been relatively plain sailing.

Not so.

I just couldn’t work out what happened between what I’m currently expecting will be the 50% mark, Middle of Act II, and the event that triggers the 75% move into Act III (in my book, a volcanic explosion and the disappearance of a very significant character respectively). I had my Main Character dicking around with potential conspiracies, and poisonings, and more training runs (she does a LOT of training which I’m very much afraid is BORING!), and it wasn’t working. Until I had another discussion with my Strategic Planning Consultant (aka my mother) and she pointed out to me that I had several ‘arcs’ running through the story that I hadn’t even realised I had, and that making sure they all had satisfying endings might be a good idea.

So we identified the arcs, and found 3 that had movement, and 2 that were staples:

  • MC’s status in the Paliten society – which incorporates the various battles she participates in and how the Paliten’s and other slaves treat her
  • MC’s relationship with the Female antagonist (the Princess Heth)
  • MC’s relationship with the Male antagonist (the mage Agawin) – which incorporates a broader issue of the mages in this society and how they interact with the warriors
  • MC’s relationship with the cats
  • MC’s relationship with the other slaves

Then the light bulb lit, and again it was the characters GOAL that was wishy-washy, and without a goal, there was no direction for the plot.

So, what was my MC’s goal in this section? She wants to Help the Princess escape from the Paliten’s. What does she need to be able to accomplish this? To keep the princess alive, to avoid the Mage Agawin, to find a device to free them and to keep the cats alive so they can get free.  How can I make sure she DOESN’T accomplish these? Well, I take my MC away from the princess, so she can’t protect her, I place Agawin right near her every day, I make sure she can’t get access to the device, and I find a way to make the cats inaccessible – probably through poisoning them!

The story has now written itself.

(The 2009 draft 0 of book 1 also included half a draft 0 of book 2. In 2012 I expanded the draft 0 of book 2 into 3/4 of a draft 0 for book 2, for which I’m now in the process of reverse engineering the outline. I have the 10% and 25% goals already set in my mind for that one, so fingers crossed it will help me plot it properly this time!)

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