Episode 33

The Hardest Part of a Book

Today I will guide you gently into Act 2 of your novel, and you will talk me down from yet another literary soapbox. And that is why we work well together.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

“Swing it Smooth” by Jon Presstone

"Romance" by Enzo Orefice

“Happy India” by Neil Cross

Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

We are in a new and improved studio, thanks to our technical advisor, Gus Aviles. It is hauntingly quiet in here when I am by myself, so I am glad to have you with me once again. Today I will guide you gently into Act 2 of your novel, and you will talk me down from yet another literary soapbox. And that is why we work well together.

The Writing Break cafe is open, so let’s grab a table, and I will fill you in on some publishing news.

Rosemi Mederos 1:42

ore life’s final mystery in:

In addition to a cease and desist letter from the attorneys of the Agatha Christie estate, McDermid received a letter from the CEO of Agatha Christie Limited, James Prichard, who, coincidentally, is Agatha Christie’s great grandson. In the letter, Prichard attempts to explain his persecution of McDermid by writing, “You must understand there is nothing personal in this, but we must protect my great grandmother’s legacy.”

I’m going to need your help here. First, Prichard, a native English speaker, clumsily and unnecessarily used the word “must” twice in one sentence. We should take that as a clear indication that writing talent is not hereditary.

Second, Prichard is hounding McDermid about his great grandmother, but it’s not personal? I suppose it is possible for a great grandson to not have personal feelings about his great grandmother.

Considering that Agatha Christie’s estate has allowed movies to come out that stray away from Christie’s original writing, including sometimes changing the murderer, maybe when Prichard says “there is nothing personal in this” he means “it’s just business” and when he says “protect my great grandmother’s legacy” he means “protect my bank account.”

Trademark enforcement can be tricky, so it is not a clear path to the end zone for the Agatha Christie estate, but we can leave that to the attorneys. I do not have an opinion as to which of the two authors is more deserving of this made-up monarchy moniker.

The New York Times published an article on August 25th called “How to Get Published: A Book’s Journey From ‘Very Messy’ Draft to Best Seller” about Jessamine Chan’s experience getting her book, The School for Good Mothers, published. It is a typical example of traditional publishing in that Chan struggled to find an agent. Seven agents passed on the book. Finally, a mutual acquaintance recommended she email the person who ended up being her literary agent. There is nothing like hope, perseverance, and the subject line So-and-so told me to email you.

Links to these articles can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com.

Other news you’ll find linked in the show notes?

-Wal-mart started a book club.

-Tik-Tok’s book club is now sponsored by Amazon.

-Gen-Z Tik-tokkers are boycotting Amazon.

As for me, I’m taking you to an independent bookstore.

Rosemi Mederos 5:31

We are at Chapter 101 bookstore in Gurugram, formerly Gurgaon, in India. Chapter 101 is a classy bookstore. It was designed to feel like a den in your home. It features brick walls, tiled floors, area rugs neatly spaced throughout, table lamps, leather armchairs, and dark wood bookshelves. Jazz plays softly in the background. There are many treasures to discover at Chapter 101, including first edition and vintage books. And, of course, there are new releases.

Despite its old world charm, the owner of Chapter 101, Mr. Raju Singh, created this space for those with a 21st-century mindset. So, let’s take a look around and then discuss an author who most certainly has a modern mindset.

Rosemi Mederos 7:07

Today we are looking at Steve Coulson’s debut comic, Summer Island, which is about a photojournalist in a remote village in Scotland whose residents are harboring a dark secret.

“A folk-horror comic in the tradition of Midsommar and The Wicker Man, this 40-page debut comic by Campfire Creative Director Steve Coulson features stunning artwork generated entirely by Artificial Intelligence.”

Yes, that’s right, the artwork is completely AI-generated. As you might have gathered by now, the unchartered waters of AI fascinate me.

As for you, you can download a copy of Summer Island for free. You don’t have to sign up for anything or even provide an email address. Check the shownote links to grab your free copy, then pull up an armchair for today’s writing tips.

Rosemi Mederos 8:31

Have you ever read a book that you thought sagged in the middle? The beginning of the book was interesting. You liked getting to know the characters.

The ending of the book was awesome. You loved how it all came together.

But the middle, well, it felt a little long; a bit slow.

That’s because Act 2 is the most difficult act to write.

As the author, you have to keep the reader's attention even though your protagonist is not changing. The protagonist starts Act 2 overcome by that major flaw you picked out for them, and they continue on that way throughout the act.

Just like Act 1, Act 2 has checkpoints. The checkpoints for Act 2 are: Crisis, Struggle, and Epiphany. Like in Act 1, the checkpoints must appear in order.

Today we are going to focus on the first checkpoint, the Crisis. At the end of Act 1, the Trigger has happened, and the character is overcome by their flaw. This leads us into Act 2 with the Crisis, which is an internal moment. That means it is all story. There is no plot in the Crisis. Go back to Episode 24 if you want to review the difference between story and plot.

So, the Crisis is internal, no plot. Your protagonist does not realize what their flaw is yet. The emotions your protagonist feels during the Crisis carry through the struggle of Act 2 and are resolved in the epiphany. We will discuss those two checkpoints in the coming episodes.

This week, write a single sentence that describes your protagonist’s crisis. Remember, there is no plot here. Then make a list of the scenes needed to get through the writing of the Crisis. Write just enough words to remember what each scene is about.

Next week, the struggle will become real. Until then, here is something I have been overthinking about this week: If automobiles were only available in pastel colors, what color would be most popular?

Thanks for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

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Rosemi Mederos


Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.