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Jeff Potts

Second Book, Tension vs. Action

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So, I'm getting really good feedback on my first book.  It's a strong story.  My problem is my second book: the follow-up.

 

As some of you know, I'm targeting the Young Adult area: ages 13 - 25.  The first book is roughly one-third introduction and background, two-thirds adventure.  My follow-up is roughly half-and-half.  The first half is in a static location, where the character interacts with several people important to the overall story, as well as receiving several things he will use in the trials to come.  Then they set out on the quest.  Plus the book is longer.  The first one I have at roughly 78,000 words.  The second is shaping up to be 90,000.

 

My problem is "half-and-half," vs. "one-third / two-thirds."  I'm worried I've set an expectation in the first book, and that a longer wait for the adventure payoff might get my target audience discouraged.  I'm trimming stuff like a madman, and I'm actually quite satisfied with the results.  It is a much tighter story, and I'm able to put in a lot of narrative tension in each chapter.  But, this time the main character isn't crossing the wilds, escaping blood-thirsty foes, and so on.  He's stuck in a static location, and I'm laying down elements that will be used as plot twists either in the book, or in subsequent books.  The working title I have is, "Secrets, Deceptions, and Lies."  So needless to say, there is a lot of non-action elements I need to throw in here, for later reveals.

 

My gut tells me to just write the story, because I lay down a couple of plot twists in this book alone.  My head, however, worries about the reader's expectations after book 1.

 

The book is already written, for the most part.  I'm essentially trimming and stitching all of the stuff I've written already into a final first draft before I go through and do my polish pass.  I just thought I'd lay out some of my anxieties here, and see what some of you think.  Am I over-thinking things?

 

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Like I know anything about Young Adult books! There are certainly others here who can give you better, stronger advice.

 

I do know about over-thinking, because that's a universal human trait.

 

Let me ask just one question: can some of the introduction and background show up later to come closer to your one-third / two thirds? 

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1 minute ago, carolinamtne said:

Let me ask just one question: can some of the introduction and background show up later to come closer to your one-third / two thirds? 

 

Nope.  Maybe 1 chapter, and that's about it.

 

 

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I agree that if you've built up reader expectations in the first story, you don't want to go all out with acres of backstory, or long philosophical discussions in the second, but on the other hand, if you've already got fans of your world and characters, some, if not most of them will actually be eager to learn about your world in more depth, so what you have may not be too much of a problem.

 

If the story is indeed a tightly-written one with plenty of narrative tension, even if there isn't a lot of fast-paced action in every chapter, I'd say you're probably good to go. Most young young adults (under 20, say) have more reading time on their hands than older adults, anyway.

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On 7/1/2020 at 5:25 PM, Jeff Potts said:

My gut tells me to just write the story, because I lay down a couple of plot twists in this book alone.

 

Go ahead, write the story.

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It's hard to say without reading the story, but I'll throw out some commonly-held thought here. I don't think this is necessarily true for every book, but, again, it's a commonly-held idea.

 

The idea is: don't worry about the location so much as the story. As long as the break into Act Two happens about a quarter of the way though the book, your structure is probably fine regardless of where the story is taking place. The break into Act Two happens when your character makes a decision from which there's no turning back. It's this decision that drives them for the rest of the story. 

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Your description reminds me of the second movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A lot more internal tension happened in the 2nd installment when parts of the Fellowship went different ways. A lot more self-discovery. I don't write for your target age group, but I think they go through a lot of self-discovery and shaping of values at that age. If internal doubts and external pressures (regardless of location) can challenge that self-discovery and show the cost of one's choices in that regard, I think that could hold your readers' attention. 

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Well I did a rough estimation of first vs. second part of my book.  The first part of the book, where the setting is kind of static, is roughly 40,000 words after consolidation.  That leaves me 40 - 50,000 words for the adventure part.  That I can do, fairly easily.  

 

I said that it is a much tighter book, and I'm feeling much better now.  I've put in more emphasis in a secondary protagonist, which is a good thing, and there is more tension with less fluff.  Even now, as I work my way to the adventure, I'm feeling more confident that it won't be a total snoozer.

 

In a way, I sort of like the challenge this book presents.  I have to be cagey in how I present things.  I've changed the order of a few events and I think it works much better now.

 

In the end, scaling things back and saying less has really led to a better product.

 

4 hours ago, Lana Christian said:

Your description reminds me of the second movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A lot more internal tension happened in the 2nd installment when parts of the Fellowship went different ways. A lot more self-discovery. I don't write for your target age group, but I think they go through a lot of self-discovery and shaping of values at that age. If internal doubts and external pressures (regardless of location) can challenge that self-discovery and show the cost of one's choices in that regard, I think that could hold your readers' attention. 

 

What you're describing is the conundrum of my third book, where the action is more scatter-shot, and mixed in deep with the inner tensions, as you describe them.  Book 3 has always been a hand-wringer for me, as the stuff before and after tend to be more action-packed or profound.  Letting it sit for a time has given me a ton of ideas that Intend on implementing.  

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1 minute ago, Jeff Potts said:

Letting it sit for a time has given me a ton of ideas that Intend on implementing.  

Letting the brain cogitate for a while often helps.

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