Revision Boot Camp: Reinforced, One-way Glass

Boot camp artwork is from the U.S. Army Online Gallery, this one by SFC Peter T. Varisano. Click for a full gallery of his work
Boot camp artwork is from the U.S. Army Online Gallery, this one by SFC Peter T. Varisano. Click for a full gallery of his work

You’ve had three days to work on your midpoint. We allocated resources and plenty of time for the mission. At this moment, if you haven’t done your homework, I don’t have time for you. I cannot hold your hand, little child. Grow up. Write or don’t–but don’t lean on others to motivate you. It has to come from inside.

If you want a last chance, GIMME FIFTY words on why you want to be a writer–not just a person who writes for themselves late at night, but one who publishes books that readers want to read. If you want that, you have to revise.

The Second Window

We’ve made it through the second act to that second major plot transition, what some people call the second doorway–and I call a window of opportunity. If your story has a beginning, middle and end, then Act 1 was the beginning, Act 2 was the middle and the scene we’re talking about today is the transition to the end. What happens here needs to accomplish two things:

image1) It needs to set up the final conflict. You have developed characters and built tension between them, but people like to avoid confrontation. In mysteries and thrillers, the villain especially likes to avoid it. If your book is a deeply introspective novel, you might find that your characters would rather not confront each other. We all have put up with people we dislike for long periods. Maybe the person who gets under your skin is a hypocritical scout leader or your best friend’s wife. You can avoid conflict with that person indefinitely–still, privately fuming at their shortcomings.

2) What I want to emphasie is that this window should be made of one-way glass. Climbing through it needs to create a situation where you can’t see what’s going to happen, and once you’re through it, there’s no going back. You have to face the confrontation.

If your readers care about your Lead, they’ve just stood by him through the midpoint. They will be eager to follow this through to the end. They want to see things turn around for him. And maybe his luck won’t change, but they can’t help reading on–to find out.

Is your second window fully set up through character interaction –in other words, through STORY. Not backstory. You csn’t hit your readers with an uncle you’ve never mentioned before, holding a gun never pkaced for reasons never mentioned earlier in the book. This window MUST be fully set up. Go through the first two acts and highlight the events building to this moment. Is the conflict fully on the page or is it partly in your head? Make certain the buildup is fully expressed.

So does your second window create a moment of no return? Have you pulled every ou ce of this scene out of your head and onto the page. Sorry, the reader cannot see the scene in your mind. Fight your instinct to hold back. FORCE yourself to delve deep into your personal feelings and revise this scene to make it truly explode with tension.



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