Friday, October 29, 2010

Folk Friday and middling

Friday again. This week has gone by with the speed of lightning. I’m waiting for my students to arrive, so I thought I’d better turn my attention to Folk Friday.

I’m smack dab in the middle of Shattered right now. Had a good writing evening last night, got the first scene transition in Chapter 10 worked out. Not a huge number of words, but a roadblock out of the way. I think the next couple of chapters will go quickly.

So far, the middle of a book has been the most difficult part for me. I start quickly, full of the momentum of my new characters, and with an idea of the ending clear in my mind. Then I hit chapter eight or nine and the flow of words slows to a trickle. I know where I’m going, but which of the countless possible routes will I take? Do I need to go back and add plot threads to keep the middle from sagging? Do I need to throw in a twist that will take my characters in a completely different direction?

I know this is a common problem, especially with writers who are pantsers like me. With McShannon’s Chance, I solved it by writing the end and working backwards. Eventually the two halves met in the middle. Once I allowed myself to stop trying to write linearly, ideas started popping into my mind to fill the void.

Authors who can plan their plot in detail – and then follow it! – amaze me. So do authors who write scenes in no particular order. There are as many ways to deal with a book’s sagging middle as there are authors. Some use a collage or storyboard. I’ve tried collaging and enjoyed it, but didn’t find it particularly helpful as a writing tool as I have a strong visual image of my characters and setting from the beginning, and end up simply looking for pictures to fit that image. Perhaps I’ll experiment with a storyboard. Writers of blogland, how do you deal with the middle of a story? Anyone have any innovative ideas to share?

Oh, yes, folk Friday! Last week, an RWAC chapter mate of mine, Carolyn Laurie, posted a wonderful video on Facebook of Raylene Rankin, Cindy Church and Susan Crowe performing together in Alberta. It’s been a while since I heard three such wonderful voices that blend together so well. Enjoy!


  1. Like you, I'm a pantser, but my problems are always elswhere in the manuscript. I usually know my characters and my ending, but it's the beginnig I have trouble with. I have two projects on the back butner at the moment. Once a nval what if set in 1940 and the other based on the German "Operational Plan 3" form 1903 which involved the bombardment and invasion of the Eastern Seaboard. Fact! I know how the books will end, I know the guts of the middle, if not the fine detail, but I can't write a beginning. In both cases I've written four or five beginnings and scrapped them or rewritten them and then scrapped them.
    Both projects are now on a low heat - witohut an opening scene I can't use them for NANO so working on another one - where I have a workable opening that simply needs rewriting.

    Sorry, I don't have an answer.

  2. *Raises Hand* Pantser here! And like you, I've written the end bits when the middle was giving me grief (never thought to work it all the way back to where I ended the beginning - must try). And like David, I've had issues with beginnings. I do manage to get them written, but then have to rewrite them over and over again - I just never know where to start the darn thing!

    Everyone's process is different - so interesting to read about, but important to know what will and won't work for you as a writer. Sometimes, I forget that and think I need to do it a certain way. Sure fire way to squash the creativity.

    Saw Rankin, Church and Crowe in concert last Saturday in Chester. Fabulous.

  3. It's all hard for me. I've tried plotting and pantzing, story boarding and outlining, collaging, using beat sheets and the hero's journey - none of it makes it any easier. But I haven't given up. Somewhere out there is the magic formula. LOL.

  4. Hi David, great to see you here! I don't think there is an 'answer', only whatever works for you.

    Hi Janet, thanks for dropping by! I think beginnings cause grief for a lot of writers. Deciding exactly where to start is never easy.

    Anne, if you find that magic formula, package it and sell it. You'd probably make millions.