Isn’t writing the first one hundred pages fun? Ooh. You have a great idea. You have a great opening line. The main character has attitude, and motivation, and the stakes are higher than high. Bad guy, lurking. Suspense everywhere. Not to mention that you’re feeling like a natural at this writing thing. You don’t have any worries about how to start a novel.
In fact, you even know the ending! All you have to do is get there. And you are bound for the New York Times list.
On a personal note, I always get a special thrill when I get to page 36. That’s because someone once told me “Anyone can write 35 pages. Only after that do the real writers appear.” So when I see page 36? I celebrate.
Anyway. Back to you. You feel as if you’ve conquered this. And then, fellow writers, you get to page, say, 100. And you hear bee-bah, bee-bah. (That’s the sound of an emergency siren.)
Because. Now you have to write the middle of your novel. You realize you have about 150 (or so) pages until you can begin the ramp up to the fabulous climax and the final coda. But what in all creation are those 150 pages gonna be?
If you are about to step into the middle and you fear you and your masterpiece are about to be victims of book-writing quicksand, no worries. You can make it across!
First, don’t think of it as the middle
Yes, your book is three acts, and the middle is Act 2. However, if you overlay another template, try dividing the book in half. That first half will contain the beginning of the beginning, the middle of the beginning (which, by page 100 you have already written) and the end of the beginning.
The second half is simply the beginning of the end—yay, another beginning. Then the middle of the end, which, hurray, is that great action-or-decision-filled ride on the plot rocketship, and the end of the end, which is all your lovely wrap-up and where all the questions are answered.
However. If the middle of your novel still feels like the proverbial muddle, here are some things you can do.
Who’s that guy?
Introduce a new character, maybe a good guy or ally or information-carrier, who pushes over some dominoes and rearranges or resets the story.
Who’s that guy?
Introduce a new antagonist who raises an obstacle. A new boss? A sinister new colleague? A long-lost relative? Someone’s friend or acquaintance or even a stranger? A new neighbor? Maybe it’s not even a person, maybe it’s a stray dog.
I have to go—where?
Change the setting. Get your character to someplace new and challenging and unexpected. Full of obstacles of course, and certainly new challenges.
Have something DIFFERENT happen—even a new subplot, if you dare. But maybe a big twist or reversal or unexpected turn of events. A death is (forgive me) an easy one. What other big bad thing might happen? (Here’s more about conflict.)
It’s not that bad, but…
Or, have a small-to-medium disaster. There’s a power outage, a storm, a terrible haircut, a car wreck, a job loss, a seemingly unrelated breakdown or accident.
Have someone get sick. Hurt. Or pretend to be sick or hurt. Or maybe they really are sick. Or they die. How did that happen?
Have a fire. An earthquake. A blizzard. A puddle. Or! The predicted storm that did not materialize, but everyone had already changed plans. Or! maybe it’s the kind of storm that’s not weather—but a big situation looming. Does it happen? Or not? Why?
Turn out the lights
Have sex. Or even think about having sex. (Your character, not you.) Oops. Did your character make a mistake? Now what? How does that change relationships, and your story?
But I never meant…
Create a big misunderstanding. An argument. A fight. Every part of a relationship that was supposed to be stable and predictable and reliable is suddenly up for grabs.
Have someone make a huge mistake and realize it. What will they do to fix it? Who will they call on to help? Who will show up?
Let it go
Can someone give up or sacrifice something? How will your character balance or juggle one critical need over another one? What will happen after they make that decision?
I cannot believe…
And the sacrifice does not have to be a physical thing or event. Might your character be forced to do something they would never have imagined they’d do? Will they have to shift their entire system of values? Make a big-nerve-wracking book-changing decision?
What all of these secrets have in common
What all of these secrets have in common is—change. Decisions. Reversals, Challenges. Obstacles. Surprises. What can you do to change the status quo? Once you do, your middle of your novel will take off and propel your story forward.
The pitfall: The key is to enrich your already wonderful plot, not to tack on extra baggage that your book has to carry. The changes/obstacles/reversals/surprises should feel genuine, authentic, and logical. Surprising, but believable.
How do you handle your book’s messy middle? Any more ideas? Let’s chat on the Career Authors Facebook page!
Now. Get writing!
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