I knew I should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque

At least Bugs was always clever when he got lost.

At least Bugs was always clever when he got lost.

After a lot of reflection, I’ve decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo this April. J and I had a very productive January, and since then, well, J has continued to get a lot done. So I need this. I need a public challenge of meeting a goal. I debated a few different projects, and I finally decided I’m going to revise The Queen’s Tower, my novel from this past NaNoWriMo. The novel requires more work than usual because I jumped into it without a detailed outline. But naturally I’ve dithered so long making the decision to do Camp that I’m not sure I’m going to have a complete one this time, either. But I am going to spend some time planning Act 2, especially the second half. I don’t want to tackle this part of the novel again without a road map.

What’s so tricky about the second half of Act 2 (roughly from the middle to three-quarters of the story)? It’s notoriously the trickiest part of a narrative to keep from sagging, and I’ve handicapped myself further by limiting the story to essentially one location for the duration of this section. Part of my inspiration for The Queen’s Tower is The Lion in Winter. For anyone unfamiliar with this amazing play (and movie), the story covers a day during the Christmas holidays when Henry II lets Queen Eleanor out of the castle he’s kept her in for over a decade. My story covers a bit more time (plus it has flashbacks), but the main timeline in the second half of Act 2 takes place at a feast. This occasion marks the first time Queen Merewyn has been allowed out of her tower in 17 years, so it comes ready made with meaning and emotion, but it still takes place in a single location over the span of just a few hours.

So, what’s happening at this feast? Lots of conversations and plotting and paranoia. But not having James Goldman’s gift for clever dialogue, the feast needs to be more than people talking. Looking back on my first draft, I don’t see anything especially wrong with any of the parts in the second half of Act 2, but I fear putting them all together will put the reader to sleep. There’s a sameness to all of it, with the exception of the flashbacks I have sprinkled in, but I want the feast to be interesting in its own right.

And this is where I hoping outlining will help. If I step back and think about the ebb and flow of the section, hopefully I will be able to identify where the narrative sags and bolster it. Of course, that means the next step is figuring out how to bolster, but I’ll have a map of where I’m going so I’ll at least know which way is Albuquerque.


4 comments on “I knew I should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque

  1. Although you probably don’t need it, in case you’re curious or you get stuck, here’s an article about great dinner or feast scenes in literature:

    You may also want to check out the Danish film “Festen” (“The Celebration,” 1998), set at dinner: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0154420/. I watched it for my film studies class in graduate school. A pretty shocking, explosive family drama unfolds.

    Good luck!


  2. […] S and I are both working on our novels.  S is revising The Queen’s Tower; I am writing a new novel.  When you revise a novel as your Camp NaNoWriMo project, you have to […]


  3. […] However, before heading off to Camp, I did not completely fix the problem I mentioned in a blog back in March—my lack of a full […]


  4. […] when S wrote about how she had to pseudo-pants The Queen’s Tower last November for NaNo, she realized how important […]


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