Friday, March 15, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

So after Erynn and Betsy's fabulous posts on the beginning and end of your novel, I just couldn't resist some thoughts on the middle. =)

Warning. Not everyone should try this at home. I realize I'm probably kind of weird for this. secret for writing the middle?

Is that I save it for the end.

Okay, seriously. For me, the beginning of the novel is exciting. I'm setting up an imaginary world filled with cool characters that I'm excited to get to know. The story is building, the conflict is growing, people are falling in love and being murdered...(okay, not the same people!) It's a fun part of the story to me. There's so much possibility in a blank page or a blank screen and the momentum of starting a story carries me pretty far in.

At about 1/4 of the way through, I tend to slow down. I start noticing that I'm getting bored writing scenes and I realize that if I'M bored, when I love the story and the characters and have so much invested in it, everyone else is going to be even more bored.

That's when I go to the end. And even though I consider myself to be at least partially a seat-of-the-pants writer, this works because I have a loose outline when I start. I know the basic gist of where my story is going, at least the main story line. Usually I'll decide on a number of chapters I'm going to shoot for and then write a one sentence (or one phrase) description of what happens. For example, one of the phrases in my WIP that tells me what will be in that chapter is 'plane crash'. I don't know the details of it or the conversations that will happen there, or exactly what is going to happen to advance plot and character development, but it helps me have an idea. Make sense?

Back to the middle. So when I finally run out of momentum, I go to the end. Sometimes I start from the very last chapter and work backwards. This doesn't only help me with stuck-in-the-middle blues, it also helps me with pacing because I know I'm not going to be rushing through the end later when I realize I'm out of word count. (This can be tricky if you're using Word to write, because you have to figure out how to save/store this part of your story. I'd recommend saving chapters as their own documents--that's the best way I figured out. Right now I'm using a writer program called Scrivener that makes jumping around like this super easy. I'm totally in love.)

Once I've been working on the ending for a while, I find myself able to focus on the middle. I have a clear picture of how the story starts, so that's good. Since I jumped ahead and wrote the end, if my seat-of-the-pants side added anything in, I now know I have to work that into the middle. Somehow seeing it all resolve gives me the jump start I need that if I write just about the last 1/4 of the story, I can go back and write the bulk of it, which takes place in the middle, without much difficulty.

Questions to ask yourself in the middle (that scary part of the story most of us fear...):

1. What conflicts do I have and how can I keep building those?
2. If it's a romance, how are you keeping your characters apart? Now that you're past the beginning, do they still have enough obstacles? If no, invent some more. Learn to love tormenting your characters. ;)
3. Is this scene interesting to me? ("Fluff" that no one enjoys, even you, is often hiding in the middle...)
4. How are my characters growing? Is what I'm writing now helping them change from who they were at the beginning to who I've said they're going to be at the end?
5. Are there any new threads I need to add to keep things interesting and make sure there's enough conflict?

Obviously the questions aren't an exhaustive list, but they're along the lines of what I've been asking myself lately to help write 'the middle'.

What are you other troubling 'middle' problems? Anyone out there LOVE writing the middle the best? And if so....wanna come write mine? ;) I'm kidding. I think.


  1. This is great. Lol. I was wondering if someone was going to post on the middle... I was thinking about asking. Anyway, I like the idea of writing the beginning, the ending, and then dealing with everything else. Its seems like itd be a little hard to write the whole story backwards. I downloaded the free trial of Scrivener the other day, but I ended up deleting it because it seemed kind of complicated. Haha. I don't always trust new things like that.

    1. Well, after the beginning and the end posts, I couldn't resist. =)

      I completely understand deleting the trial of Scrivener! I deleted it the first time I downloaded it too. When I decided to try it this time I had to spend hours reading the instructions and once I learned it, I loved it. But it was a lot to take in. =)

  2. Learn to love tormenting your characters... Wow! And I thought I was the only who enjoyed seeing how miserable I could make them. ;)

    1. Haha! I'm actually only just now getting into this! For a while I was too nice to them, which I thought was fun (hey--more happily ever after!) but it didn't make for a very interesting story without all the conflict...=)