Reflections on Completing the First Act of a Novel

424863_10150565031583912_2046016596_nI think most people understand the basic tenets of writing, that a story has a beginning, middle and end. I think that most people understand that stories don’t always START at the beginning, nor do they necessarily FINISH at the end. And that middle part…well it’s a proper layer cake, isn’t it? It is the meat, cheese, veg and condiments of your sanny, and you want to build it to be as filling and palatable as possible.

Which is why, when writing a novel, I sometimes come to see the story as taking place in not just Chapters, but “Acts”; sets of Chapters that divide up the progression of the story elements into easily digestible portions.

Sometimes, as in Chronicles of the Aeons War, those Acts are deliberate and visible, having divided that thousand-page meganovel into five sequential novellas. Other times, as with my current writing project, the end of one Act and the beginning of another is less noticeable and more fluid.

This time around, with this Alien Invasion Story of a Different Kind that I’m crafting, the first Act ends seamlessly, with the protagonists lined up exactly where I need them to be for the next Act to unfold. Technically speaking, this story may find itself told in three or four Acts; all depends on how efficient the subsequent Chapters I write will be at moving the story forward.

But before I start the next Chapter, I need to take some time to reflect on what’s to come, and re-read, revise and do a preliminary edit of that first Act. I also have to convert the lot into a single PDF because my Beta Reader is extremely demanding of how they receive their reading material. There’s also other technical and legal avenues I have to examine, and I am prepping a crowd-funding project that may or may not help unchain me from this desk and free me to run wild to my favorite café.

I started this project in very late December, of last year. From November 2014 to March or April of 2015 I went through a period of chronic nightmares, each of them extremely vivid, to the point where I had to tranquilize myself because I was too afraid to sleep otherwise; yeah, we’re talking Wes-Craven-creating-Freddy-Krueger-Level-Nightmares.

One very bad dream I had was of two very different post-invasion Human civilizations. The dream was so vivid that when I woke from it I immediately started organizing the images and emotions evoked by the dream into the skein of the novel I’m now writing.

I’ve also recently started having more frequent nightmares again.  It’s a mixed blessing: one involved another series of horrible alien awfulness that found my creative G-spot and sent words gushing in a flood of intense, determined bliss from my fingers into my keyboard. Another, recent vivid nightmare involved Colin Baker being re-cast as the Doctor (Though without his Technicolor Coat of MDMA-fuelled couture), the TARDIS being given a whole new paint scheme and a totally dreadful redesign…but I expect many Whovians may suffer similar nightmarish anxieties if only because of the direction the show’s gone since towards the end of Matt Smith’s tenure. Nothing against Peter Capaldi – he IS the Doctor – but sometimes I feel like I’m watching Timothy Dalton’s wonderful James Bond fighting his way through such horrible, horrible stories. But, I digress.

The next phase of the novel I’m currently being driven to write actually begins where its source-material nightmare began. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens, because I feel as though I am once more just the Scribe, just the channel through which the Story is telling itself. Not that I mind; I love taking the trip as much as I love being the one behind the wheel.

We’ll talk again soon.