Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Making the Middle of Your Story Awesome

I read a lot about writing strong story openings, and also about writing awesome endings, but for me, the hardest part of the novel is the middle. You know, that tricky part where the characters try to solve their problems and reach their goals but aren't really getting anywhere--except into a giant tangled mess of plot threads.

One of the problems I find with the murky middle is that the storyline can go in different directions, depending on the choices I make as the writer. Sometimes, I get stuck thinking about how I can't go on if I don't get the pieces right in the middle. Or the right order for the scenes. get the idea. There's always something. So, the best solution is to just dive in and try something. But what?

What I usually do first when I get to feeling lost with my writing is to stop and think about my characters and what they really want. How can I help them get there?

Then I look back at my outline and think about whether what I planned to write will actually get them to where they need to go. Maybe there's something wrong with the outline. Or maybe I've gone off in a different direction and something needs to be changed, either in what I've written or in the outline.

I recently discovered a couple of good ideas to help with the "getting stuck in the middle" syndrome:

1. Gary Korisko suggests, "Accept that stuck is sometimes part of the creative process." [This Is What Blocks Your Writing (And How to Bust Through), Write to Done, September 30, 2013].  An interesting point in Gary's post is how having too many ideas can get you stuck in your story. Like in the middle, where there are lots of different possibilities for where the storyline can go and you feel stressed about choosing the "right" one.

Sometimes the solution is to just wait it out, take a break, and let the ideas sort themselves out in your mind. Some stories take longer to write (or revise) than others.

2. If you know the ending, write backwards! Over at The Blood Red Pencil, Elspeth Antonelli reminded me that there's more than one way to get through the middle [Your Manuscript's Menacing Middle, October 2, 2013]. Why not start at the end and work back?  It seems like a great solution to try, especially if the middle is really messing with your mind.

Focusing on the ending could help make it easier to see which choices in the middle are most helpful in guiding the character through to the next big plot event.

Do you have any other tips to help with the "messy middle" problem?



  1. I have never tried writing backwards- but it does sound interesting. Great post with lots of good advice. :)

  2. I think the 9-box plot chart can help with this because those boxes touching each other show connections and help suggest what material belongs in the middle.


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