mid-way blues– an adventure in writing

So, my last post about being slowed down at the end of writing a novel didn’t get the responses that I thought it would. I expected thoughts on procrastination and being a perfectionist. Instead, everyone else seems to hate middles.

They’re not alone. I remember that Steve Malley wrote a post about how much he hates middles (and preceding it, another post about how to get through that middle).

I remember once having trouble getting through the middle of my book. The first two drafts of Blue Crystal might have sunk the book if it weren’t for friends that talked me through the plot points. The middle of this draft gave me no trouble at all.

Personally, I think it’s because of the type of book that I’m writing. Even so, I thought I’d share what I’ve done, in case it helps anyone else out.

Halfway through Blue Crystal, a man is executed because of the heroine. Someone that she had decided not to trust because he was keeping secrets from her. The heroine is attacked, the hero goes out for revenge (not successful). A crooked judge is brought to light, and the king’s lenders are angry. There’s simply no time here to let the plot sag– there’s far too much going on. (And that’s less than half of the events in those middle pages.

When writing teachers diagram plot, they tend to use a rising mountain, a sharp climax, and then a drop off that curves to a nice resolution. It looks like this:

plot_traditionallayout

With no offense intended to creative writing teachers everywhere, this diagram really never did it for me. These were characters and situations that you cared about– not a graph of overall anxiety. And from a compositional standpoint, one has to wonder if this chart is even misleading.

Instead of thinking of the story as a mountain hike, I think it does better if seen as a series of beginnings and endings. One problem is resolved, and another rears its nasty head. One character takes an interest in one aspect of their troubles, another looks elsewhere. Perhaps both are aspects of the same source. Maybe they’re unrelated, but the conflict of interest between characters creates a new conflict.

Something more like this.
plot_mylayout

Try not having a middle. Try having little climaxes everywhere.

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3 thoughts on “mid-way blues– an adventure in writing

  1. My own current technique (inasmuch as I remember) owes quite a lot to John Truby’s insistence on a ‘designing principle’- a central idea or very short statement of what it’s all about that shapes the whole story.

    It sounds like one of those ‘writing by numbers’ ideas until you try it, and then suddenly everything in the plot, even the weirder bits, starts feeding properly towards the end. As a result, while I used to have problems with middles, I don’t seem to anymore.

  2. I love that diagram you created. That’s exactly the sort of story I hope I am writing. You definitely need little climaxes throughout, otherwise no one would finish a chapter!

  3. Oh, that’s much better! Anyone with any real-life experience knows that any given time period is subject to multiple crises and/or resolutions. Great diagram! Very clarifying and helpful.

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