Facing the Muddle in the Middle

The latest from Project: Raven-land (10/12/21)

This novel-writing deal is a trip. Some days I feel like I’m getting somewhere, others I know for sure I’m not.

Yesterday, I posted the (first draft of) the Break into Two, which made me feel like I was actually getting somewhere.

 Hopping into the Hilux, Breaking into Two
Don Cuervo leaves the Act 1 World behindjimlatham.medium.com

In terms of numbers, I’m just over 14,000 words in. Starting from the beginning, I’ve written (first draft quality) the Inciting Incident (or Catalyst) and the Break into 2 (or Commitment).

Based on these numbers and the idea that the book will have 4 quarters of roughly equal length, I’m looking at about 60,000 total words. That’s an intimidating number.

My plan is to try not to think about the number and keep chipping away at the mountain. But, really: Who am I kidding? 

I’m thinking about the number.

This week’s mountain

This week, I’m working on Sequence 3, the very first part of Act 2. The sequence in which the hero finds himself in the new world — the part of the story where the action happens — and does stuff that may or may not be stupid.

I’ve drafted 3 scenes, including a brief fight, and have an idea of where I want the next couple scenes to go. I’d like to come up with some kind of cool ending for Sequence 3. 


Because I’ve been reading Pinch Points.

According to Plot Basics: Plot Your Screenplay or Novel in Eight Sequences by Paul Tomlinson, which I’ve found very helpful, the term pinch point comes from Syd Field’s The Screenwriter’s Workbook.

Field posits that two pinch points occur at the ends of Sequence 3 and Sequence 5 — in other words, at the end of the sequences on either side of the Midpoint, which is a major turning point in the story.

Field describes pinch points as

 “just a little pinch in the story line that keeps the action on track, moving the story forward.” 

— Syd Field, The Screenwriter’s Workbook

The first pinch point moves the story toward the Midpoint, and the second moves it toward the major crisis at the end of Act 2.

Bonus points are handed out if the two pinch points share a thematic link that helps lend coherence to the story.

Field (as cited in Tomlinson) gives an example from Thelma & Louise:

  • Pinch 1: Thelma and Louise pick up J.D. (Brad Pitt).
  • Midpoint: J.D. steals their money.
  • Pinch 2: J.D. is picked up by the police and tells them where Thelma and Louise are headed.

It’s worth noting that these pinch points make things harder for the heroines. This gives them a chance to be more heroic. 

These pinch points also fit with the theme of Thelma & Louise, that men cannot be trusted and will work together to oppress women. 

Pinching Don Cuervo

I’m hoping that I can come up with something like this for Don Cuervo. The main problem that I’m facing is that I don’t have a real concrete idea of what exactly is going to happen next — so I’m not sure how to pinch him.

I have some ideas of what I would like to happen, but they are a couple steps down the road. I’ve got to write the A and the B that lead to the C and the D. 

As much as I’ve been trying to plot this story out, I’ve only had limited success doing that. I’ve made plans that changed as soon as I started writing. 

I don’t mind that, per se — this whole process is about learning, and I’m learning that I only somewhat stick to my plans — but it means there’s a fair amount of going back and changing things. 

As long as I keep making progress, I’ll be okay. So I’m going to wrap this up and go back to the novel and trust that somebody — the universe, my subconscious, who knows — will toss something useful my way.

Tune in next week to see if it happened.