Writing the 2nd act can feel like torture for a writer but it can do something even worst than emotional torture–it can bore your reader. I have read numerous novels of all genres (but literary fiction is the most guilty of culprits) where I’m 50 pages in; a solid first act is set up & I’m Facebooking or tweeting ‘book of the year! Read this, awesome…”
And then a day later I’m feeling like I jumped the gun. Somewhere along page 100-200 (depending on the length) the books starts drifting, the characters just seem to wander & the clever & cool prose starts to wear thin & I wonder was there ever a story here at all. And I ask the question that no writer wants to hear about their book–do I really want to finish this?
Scary stuff. How do we writers deal with this damn second act? First off, I’m not saying I have all the answers but as I’m revising the second act of a New Adult Novel, I am seeing what is working: not making it boring or self-indulgent, keeping the story moving and connecting to the actions to characters growth and goals, and most importantly having it be a solid bridge into the third act with a pay off climax.
I think the biggest part about the second act is to make the reader (or watcher this definitely applies to screenwriting too) want to find out what is going to happen in the end of the third act. Until it comes, us writers are like the dinner hosts piling up some good food and wine that will keep our guests satisfied until it is time for the main course and finally desert.
The other thing I noticed is moving at a solid pace that fits with the story (every book as a rhythm and it feels weird and wrong when we don’t keep the beat); we are trying to get to the climax but if you get there too soon or too late it loses your stories rhythm and the reader is not going too feel dissatisfied in the end and might not even go to the literal ‘The End’.
It is all about pacing and we know we have reached the end of the second act when we feel that excitement of ‘what could happen’ and lose ourselves in the story and want to get to the finish line because we are invested in the characters/story and the readers trust we are bringing them to a satisfying ending.