Okay, so last Tuesday I told you about how I’m not a plotter or pantser, but a paradigmer. This week I want to share how I approach getting through the dreaded middle of a book. In no way do I think this is the “right” way. It’s just the way I do I do it. If you’ve got a system that works for you…don’t deviate! But if you’re struggling, maybe my approach will help you to think about it differently.
For many people (count me! count me!) writing the middle of a novel is like entering a land of quicksand. One minute you’re on firm footing and the next the life is getting sucked out of your story.
But, let’s back up a step. Most people would agree that novels have a beginning, middle, and an end, which in turn leads to our understanding of basic three act structure. Therein lies the problem, imho. Most writers believe one of two things:
1) Each act/section is equal (a third is the beginning, a third is the middle, and a third is the end)
2) The first act is ¼ of the story, the middle is HALF of the story, and the last act is ¼.
With me so far?
No wonder the middle is intimidating. For one thing, the middle is long. For another, most of the flashy stuff – introducing characters/story lines and completing a characters arcs and a big bang climax occur in the other two acts.
Now here’s my crazy idea. What if you break the middle into two acts? What if you start thinking of your midpoint as the CLIMAX of your second act?
Something big is going to happen at the midpoint -- a giant plot twist, an unexpected failure, a point of no return. Hell, your protagonist probably believes that the action they take at the mid-point will end their ordeal (sure, you the writer know that their life is about to get worse, but they don't). They probably think things are getting better/going well for them. Write toward the midpoint as though it’s a climax and your story won’t sag in the middle.
In my NaNo novel, my MC is going to do the one thing that can put her life back on track. She truly believes if she accomplishes this Herculean task, all will be right in her world. She makes the attempt. She fails. All is lost…
What’s the midpoint of your story? What does your protagonist think they’re going to accomplish? Infuse this section of your novel with the sense of urgency they’re experiencing. They’re not approaching the midpoint as an obstacle to overcome. He or she believes it’s the finish line and they’re rushing forward to cross it.
Now it’s your turn. What are your tricks for avoiding middle-of-the-novel slump? Please, please tell me -- I need all the help I can get!
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how are you doing? (Don’t forget I’m posting tips, tricks, and pep talks every day on JB Lynn’s Confessions of a Crime Writer!)