Monday, July 13, 2015

A Look Inside a Writer's Mind -- Working from the Middle of a Story

with Missy Tippens

Are you curious how other writers work? I always have been. So back in 2009, here on the blog, I shared one of my many charts that I create while planning a book. I shared my GMC chart (click here if you'd like to see it). Several readers found it helpful, so I thought I'd share a peek into my brain (scary, I know! :)) for the planning of my most recent book from Love Inspired. This time, instead of my GMC chart I thought I'd share the work I did using James Scott Bell's book Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between. 

Through brainstorming, I knew the basic idea I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to write a fish out of water story about a laid back bachelor who has a baby dumped on him (by his cousin). And I wanted him to need the help of an uptight pediatrician. I had enough info to come up with the story question for my what became the book titled The Doctor's Second Chance.

Story Question:
Will Jake be able to take care of this newborn and locate his cousin before Violet gets the court involved? Can Violet fulfill her goal of helping children without falling in love with the baby…and with Jake? Or might the two of them discover that family comes in all shapes and sizes?

The beginning was easy. I pictured it like a movie in my head and had a lot of fun writing those first two or three chapters. But then I had to figure out what would happen after that! (Have you had those moments?? Where you blaze along and then suddenly come to a dead halt because you can't figure out what will happen next?)

So this was where I pulled out Jim Bell's book and got to work. He talks about a moment in the middle of the story where the characters take a hard look at themselves and figure out how they can move forward. How they must change. I thought I'd share my notes with you. The final version of the book sometimes ends up changing a little once I actually write it. But these are my thoughts (you can see it's pretty much stream of consciousness) as I dove into this story.

SPOILER ALERT! This will give away what happens in the story. :) 

Mid-point mirror moment:
Jake: Is there really such thing as a secure family…this ideal little family bubble? For me? And if so, do I dare go for it? What if it got taken away? Show him taking a risky step: asking her out on a date. It’s a concrete move toward making them a unit.

Violet: Do I deserve to be happy? Can I really move forward and let go of the past? Show her admitting some weakness to him. Maybe she shares about rift with her family (but not why), how she’s felt she has to do everything herself. And then she opens up with how she needs him somehow (maybe she needs him to support her in town, by letting people know his opinion of her has changed). [but I’d kind of like him to do this on his own, and she discovers he’s done it because he cares. So maybe she doesn’t ask him to do that. Maybe she just opens up and shares her hurts.]

In Write Your Novel from the Beginning, Bell suggests working backward from that middle point to figure out the backstory. Here are my thoughts as I worked out that part.

Pre-story psychology:
Jake: Parents died, “abandoning” him. Aunt and uncle took him in but he always felt he needed to be good for them to keep him. That “being good” alienated his cousin (Remy), so he never felt part of the family. His aunt and uncle worked a lot, and he got stuck trying to keep Remy out of trouble since he felt like her destructive behavior was probably his fault. Once she ran off, he felt a sense of relief, of freedom. Has been working hard so he can play and enjoy that freedom. Thinks he has just what he wants. The baby being dropped on him limits that freedom, and he feels that renewed sense of guilt, as if he does owe her (Remy). Plus, he’s just naturally responsible.

Violet: Parents were socialites, valued what others thought of them, worried about appearances. Were often gone, lots of baby sitters. She fell for a guy who needed her, and got pregnant. Parents insisted she give up for adoption, would not consider helping her keep baby, claiming she couldn’t give up her lifelong goal to be a doctor. But she felt they were more worried about how it would make them look. She resented them. No relationship since, even though they’ve tried and dad has apologized (mom insists it was best for everyone). She has been independent, putting herself through school and medical school. Feels she was weak and failed her child. Decided she would help other children by becoming pediatrician. Didn’t like large clinic and impersonal medicine. Bought small town clinic to be part of patients’ lives.

Another part of Writing Your Novel from the Middle has you plan how to show the characters have changed. Remember to show, not tell! Here's my work on that section of Jim's book, and you can see how I worked out my theme/premise as I was doing this section.

How can I show it?
Both have had ideals of the perfect family that they never had. Have to learn to let go of that. Have to accept a new picture of what family means to them now that God has brought them together, and to let go of fear of the rug being yanked out from under them. Must learn to trust God instead of themselves (what I’m learning now).

Jake: In the beginning, he’s still trying to be responsible and take care of others, finding it hard to ask for help. Connection is out of a sense of duty rather than out of love. Needs to extend love. Needs to accept love freely given. He doesn’t have to earn the right to be part of a family.
To show his transformation…He’ll ask her to be his family (scary and risky but worth it). And he’ll ask it even while she’s still acting cool toward him, so it’s even riskier. He’ll do it with God’s strength (when he is weak, God is strong).

Violet: In the beginning, she’s independent and all business, only willing to reach out for the good of the child. She feels driven to work to deserve anything good that comes to her. She’s driving herself, fighting her nature to want closeness and family. She learns she doesn’t have to work hard to earn happiness just because of her past. Needs to accept love freely given. She is worthy of love, because God loves her just as she is.
Or maybe what she thought she needed was control over her life when what she really needed was to give up control, to just accept love.
To show her transformation…she’ll sleep in past sunrise. (maybe in epilogue? On honeymoon?)

So there you have it! :) My crazy brain at work. I hope it's helpful. And if you think this type method might work for you (using it before, during or after your first draft), then give Bell's book a try. (No, I don't earn anything from recommending it.) He shows examples and goes into much more detail than this post.

And if you want to see how this plays out in the final version of my book, The Doctor's Second Chance, you can find it at most online booksellers or ask your local bookseller to order a copy.

Here's a link to Amazon.

Here's a link to B&N.
Here's a link to Christian Book.

And here's a link to the first chapter excerpt--click here

Soooo… Let's talk about the middle point of your book! What big happens? What do your characters discover about themselves? Do you think that can inform your backstory and the ending?

I'll be giving away two Kindle copies of the newly released With this Spark historical collection, four novellas from our very own Seekers! Please let me know you'd like to be entered. Winners will be announced in the Weekend Edition.

NEWS FLASH!!! Since I first prepared this post, we released our new contemporary boxed set!! Please check it out! We had so much fun with this collection and think you'll enjoy it. :) Click here.


Missy Tippens said...

Decaff coffee is on for those who are stopping by before bed.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Real Coffee Has Arrived!!!!

Missy, this process fascinates me. I'm linear, I don't think about the middle (much) because usually their neuroses (kidding, only slightly, like a smidge of kidding!) usually give me fodder. I love that you can visualize this. That's wonderful!

And I read that beautiful book on my way home from retreat, and I just smiled like a goof the whole two-day plane experience!!!! I read your book and Tina's "Safe in the Firefighter's Arms" and no wonder all-night airport delays didn't bother me a whit!

I had Tina and Missy with me!!!!! Such a good book, Missy, I wanted to jump through the pages and help that hapless hero!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

So if it's just you and me today, Missy, I suggest we shut the door, meet in the middle (Virginia, maybe???) and grab coffee at a Starbucks!!!!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Mary Curry introduced me to this. I have to try it!!! It might be a way to mesh The Heroes Two Journeys.

Lindi Peterson said...

Good morning Seekerville!! I need this book. Like right now--cause I'm "Stuck in the middle with you." You being Porter and Honey--my hero and heroine. Will buy book asap.
Thanks for the insights. :)

Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Missy,
Stopping by to say hi! I'm looking forward to the Coffee Shop novellas. I haven't read this LI book yet so I couldn't read most of this post because of the spoiler alert, whew, thanks for the heads up on that.

And yes, you and Ruthy should definitely meet in the middle and join me in Va. For a cup of CAFFEINATED coffee to start this Monday right.

Jackie said...

Good morning Missy,

I've started plotting a new story, and your post came at a perfect time for me.

Thanks so much for sharing your process.

Congratulations on the Coffee Shop Romances. I can't wait to read those stories.

I hope you all have a great week!

Bettie said...

Thanks for sharing the other side of the Doctor's Second Chance. I've enjoyed reading both. I am stuck in the middle of my current work so hopefully this will help. Please enter me in the drawing for With this spark.

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, I'm throwing my stuff in the car now!! Will see you in a few hours.


Thanks for reading the book! I'm glad I was able to help through your airport nightmare. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, in the book Jim talks about story structure (in acts), so yes, I bet it would be useful to use his method with Hauge and Vogler's stuff that you already use.

Missy Tippens said...

Lindi, I hope it helps! There's nothing as bad as being stuck in the middle and trying to figure out where you're going.

Missy Tippens said...

Tracey, Ruthy and I will have to take you up on that offer to visit! :) And definitely caffeinated at this hour of the morning. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jackie, I'm glad the timing was good for you. Don't you love starting a new story?! That's one of my favorite parts. I guess the other is zooming toward the end. So fun!

Missy Tippens said...

Bettie, I hope it helps!

Tracey Hagwood said...

I have a question from a reader's POV. Is there a recommended time in the middle to give the reader some small satisfaction and encouragement to want them to keep reading? I'm currently reading a book that started off really well, but I'm over 200 pages in and its still all angst, frustration and miscommunication. Of course it will end well I know, but I have problems with books like this that take sooo long for the tide to turn.

Mary Hicks said...

Perfect timing Missy. I just bought that book and haven't gotten into it yet. I'm printing your post and putting it with the book. I'll study them together. :-)

Tracey Hagwood—I feel the same way about a book that doesn't give me at least a tiny bit of relief early on.

Tracey Hagwood said...

Mary Hicks-yes, we have to have glimmers of hope that spur us to read on. Books like the one I'm reading cause a lot of nervous anxiety and that defeats the purpose of pleasure reading.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tracey, that's so interesting. Melissa Endlich is a great teacher about this, that you need to infuse hope in tomorrow while the protagonists mess up (or are messed up by circumstances beyond their control) because the reader needs hope.

And she almost never allows miscommunication, unless it's old news/backstory, because that kind of comes back to the five-minute conversation rule: If it could be cleared up in a five minute convo, it's not really a problem.

I've always cringed when I hear authors talk about throwing everything at the hero and heroine because if their internal struggle is real enough, they don't need the kitchen sink on top of the house falling down.

But then I wonder if that's more because I prefer that style, because I see books like that win awards, so maybe some readers like that????

Caryl Kane said...

Hello Seekerville! As a reader I am fascinated with the writing process. Authors, THANK YOU for all that you do to bring your story to us readers!

Missy Tippens said...

Tracey, I like to have a moment of bonding around the middle. Time for them to see what could possibly be. I learned about that from The Moral Premise. They get a glimpse of the virtue, but they're not yet able to give up living the vice.

Missy Tippens said...

Mary Hicks, I hope it's helpful!

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, that's a great quote: If their internal struggles are strong enough you don't need to throw the kitchen sink at them. You should do a blog post on that!

Missy Tippens said...

Caryl, thank YOU for reading! :)

DebH said...

Okay, the meet in middle thing in Virginia? Offering a place to lay your head in Va Beach so I can see Ruthy and Missy too.

As for today's post: I've got the book, I think I need to use it with my revisions because I got lost somewhere along the way in my MS. With the necessary total revamp - I'm thinking this will help me. Must go read that book and do the work.

Thanks Missy!!! I so need to go get your book and read it. Abandonment issues with main characters always grab me (says the adoptee who found her birth parents in hopes of quelling her own abandonment issues)

would love to be in the draw for the Seeker collection. the coffee shop collection looks AWESOME!!! I'd buy both new ones straight out but had to spend a whole paycheck to fix my car this past weekend :( *sigh* Buying books is on hold for awhile as budget recovers.

Great post Missy. Thanks for exposing the workings of your grey matter to us. I think y'all need a meme of "Which Seeker author am I most like?" Every time you ladies show something of how you work, I think, "hmmm... do I/should I work like that?"

Tracey Hagwood said...

Ruthy-your style suits me just fine, legit issues that have to be worked out over the course of the book. This makes for enjoyable reading!

Melissa's rule about no miscommunication would have kept the book I'm reading from being published. It's the whole premise of the book though, they don't talk to each other because of their painful pasts. A five minute conversation would have shortened this full length novel to a novella. I would like it better as a novella. At some point I want to say can we please move on, or I lose so much interest I stop caring what happens to either of them.

I, like you, don't quite understand this type of book winning awards. I put much more stock in a reader's choice award than a professional critic pick. Just my 2 cents. Maybe I should change my online name to "just my 2 cents", LOL.

kaybee said...

MISSY, this is good. Structure is my weak point. I'm not a pantser, I just don't plan well enough.
I'm game, what the hay, if you guys draw blood it's only virtual blood. I have two WIPs, but I'm hashing out one with my crit partner so I'll use the other one here. O-kay:
JULIA is a former prostitute who has found Christ and meaningful work at a New York settlement house. She is beginning to have feelings for Henry, but doesn't think she's good enough for him. She learns that the daughter she thought was dead is alive and goes undercover in her old neighborhood, New York's Bowery, to try to find the child, who has been kidnapped.
HENRY is a young man of privilege who volunteers at the settlement house. He has feelings for Julia but is shy about telling her, until he learns she is leaving. He begs her to stay or to let him go with her, but she says she has to do it alone. He feels inadequate and thinks HE isn't good enough for her.
The spiritual arc is that Henry doesn't think he needs Christ, both because he's always "had everything" and because he's skeptical of a God who could allow the things that happened to Julia. Julia is already a Christian and thought her faith was sound, but in going back to the Bowery she sees the woman she was and questions whether her salvation was valid.
IN THE MIDDLE: Julia goes undercover at a convent and finds her daughter, but can't get to her. The Mother Superior is the sister of the thug who kidnapped the child, and Julia now knows they are on to her. But seeing her child strengthens her resolve. She escapes the convent and works on how to get her daughter back.
Henry's father tells him he has to give up Julia. Henry doesn't care about the inheritance, but his father lines out for him, in exquisite detail, how their "set" will snub her and make her life miserable. Henry believes this and also that he isn't good enough for her anyway, so he determines to give her up -- but not until he's helped her find the little girl.
AT THE END Henry proves himself against the mobsters when he helps her get the child back, and she realizes she doesn't have to do everything alone.
I could do more with the middle. I'm under on my word count right now, so I could have them meet and have a flash of what they could be. Or whatever. OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.
Kathy Bailey
Writing about mobsters and redemption in New Hampshire

Cindy Regnier said...

Please enter me, Missy, cuz I REALLY want hose novellas, and thanks so much for your post. In case I haven't told you before now, I really loved The Doctor's Second Chance and recommend it everybody here on Seekerville. The scenes of rough and tough construction contractor Jake with the little baby girl are absolute heart tuggers.
Just for fun I'll share what I've been doing. Went back to one of my older stories (Ugh - won't mention all the bad writing), re-did it, re-worked it, added to it. I love it now. The most romantic story ever! Don't give up on your old or new projects. Rejuvenation is possible!

Myra Johnson said...

Loved getting this view into how your mind works, Missy! Jim Bell's book has really helped me, too. His ideas about writing from the middle mess nicely with Stan Williams's Moment of Grace from The Moral Premise.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm out with my daughter getting college vaccinations but will check back in soon!

Mary Connealy said...

I'm always wary when a blog tries to teach me something.

My braind (despite what you read about only using a small part of it) is full.

I physically felt it run over in about 1885. It was a strange and slightly painful feeling.

Since then, to learn something new I have to forget something I already know.

So if I could just forget the Greek Alphabet I learned when my college roomie joined a sorority, I could memorize the phone numbers of my children.

Otherwise I just have to find the phone and use the contacts list. :(

And now here is Missy, doing her best to teach me something. Uphill battle, Mz Tippens but good luck.

Wilani Wahl said...

Missy, I just wanted to tell you how much I loved The Doctor's Second Chance. It was great.

I will be adding Bell's book to my wish list.

I already have With this Spark and will be adding Coffee Shop this morning.

I hope you will have a great day!

Myra Johnson said...

MARY, so you've been around a lot longer than I realized. 1885??? Really???

Janet Dean said...

Missy, fun to crawl into your head and look at how you developed the nuts and bolts of The Doctor's Second Chance! Love fish out of water stories and this one rocks! Loved it!!

The middle is hard to write. Thanks for the reminder that Bell suggests forcing our characters to take a hard look at themselves in order to figure out how to move forward.


Janet Dean said...

Mary, I find forgetting stuff is super easy. I would prefer your full brain that has no room for more info. Like a wet sponge, I soak up the tips eagerly. But sponges dry out, shrink. That's a picture of my head. I'll trade you.


Janet Dean said...

Myra, Mary lives in the 1800s in her head that she has no room for this century.


Pam Hillman said...

What a fun way to look at writing. I might need to practice this. Missy, is the book clear on whether you start WRITING in the middle, or just plotting/planning from the middle? I'm not sure I could literally write the middle scenes first, although if I COULD do that, wouldn't it be wonderful?

Get that last 30-40K...that part that I always struggle with...done, SOLID, then write the beginning to "fit".

That might revolutionize my production time and eliminate so many rabbit trails. :)

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

That actually sounds somewhat more like how I write. I like to write the pivotal middleish scenes first, and then work on connecting them. Then if I have a brilliant idea for the beginning or the end, I'll tack that on, work on connecting that, etc. So for me it's more like putting together a puzzle, where I pick out all pieces of a certain color and work there, then move on to a different color, to a different color, until the chunks start connecting. I never was one for doing the edge first.

Oh, and I would love to be entered for With This Spark!

Carolyne Aarsen said...

Excellent post Missy. And Ruthy, can I take my Earl Grey decaf tea to the partee? Just can't drink coffee. Tried. Can't. Sorry.

But this post was great with a capital G. That midpoint - mirror moment, is a real turning point. I know for me it's often when my hero and heroine share a kiss and if not a kiss, a very touching moment that helps them to think, you know what? Maybe I can do this! Maybe we can make it work. But we know that its not all done at that point, they are just nudged into a different direction thinking they can stay the same and still make this work but we know that all comes apart at the Black Moment. Anyhow, great points. I LOVE how you showed backstory and how this brought the hero and heroine their wounds and what they will do to avoid them. I'm taking notes, girl!

Amber Schamel said...

Great post, Missy. Thanks for giving us a sneak peek into your writer brain. I have this problem going on right now...kinda stuck while I figure out how my character gets out of this mess. :)
I'll have to snatch a copy of this book!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Rachel, I salute you!!!! You can do this, for real???? This is the glory of the human brain, how different we are and how wonderfully we can get the same results: a finished book!!!! By using different paths.

This is totally human and totally God.

Carolyne Aarsen, you adorable thing, yes! Bring that tea on in, we don't segregate here! All are welcome!

That moment is a great turning point, you are spot on! And maybe if I looked at the middle from that way, I could do it.

(I couldn't/can't/won't but youse know how sensitive Missy is and I can't hurt her feelings for the world! Even I'm not that mean!!!)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, you've got some wicked weather your way! I am glad I'm not on a Chicago-bound plane this morning!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Tracey! We like to get everyone's 2 cents around here. :)

Vince said...

Hi Missy:

"No greater love has an author for her readers than to issue a spoiler in an effort to provide for her readers' enlightenment."

But don't worry. I've read your book (5 stars) and what you wrote here will only enhance the reading enjoyment.

There is a problem with starting in the middle. You still have to decide if you are going to work from the middle forward or from the middle backward and if you do a little of both directions, then I think you're really a pantser trying to pass for something more methodological.

In a sense what difference does it make from which point you start to pantser?

Conceptually and visually 'staring in the middle' seems a lot like planning a trip from NYC to LA by starting in Tulsa. You could do it…but why? : )

If plotters and pantsers
don't give you the answers
then try middlingers
and storyslingers
Oy vey, what can I say?
There's that baby again
Will we ever have answers?


P.S. I think I was the first one to download Bell's book. My suggestion is that you start reading it from the middle.

Missy Tippens said...

DebH, I'm sorry about your car! I hate that type stuff. And it always seems to happen in groups where several things break down at once.

I love the idea about the Who Am I? game! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Kathy B, thanks for sharing! You have a good stuff!

In Bell's book he talks about the midpoint in character driven stories as well as plot driven stories. Yours sounds like a little of both--a point where she's been discovered (and is in danger physically) and a point where he's got to face the fact he may have to give her up because he can't change enough to be the man she needs or give her a happy life (based on his father's threats).

Maybe somewhere in there your heroine can examine why she felt she needed to get her daughter alone. Can she maybe have a moment where she can envision having the hero by her side in the future (a glimpse of what could be if she's not trying so hard to be independent and if she could get over her feeling of not being good enough)??

I'm just thinking "out loud", tossing out ideas.

Missy Tippens said...

Cindy R, thank you! I'm so glad you liked the story. :) Some stories are a struggle, but The Doctor's Second Chance was one of the easier ones to write (once I got past the initial "What on earth is going to happen?" moment.) :)

I'm so glad your re-worked story is going so well!! I love when that happens!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Myra. I think you meant "mesh" with Stanley's book. :) But YES! I agree. I love using both together.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Connealy!! I think you should sacrifice your children's phone numbers for my post info. Come on. Get your priorities straight.


Missy Tippens said...

Wilani, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. And bless you for getting the new boxed sets!

Missy Tippens said...

Janet, yeah, it's a great point he makes in his book. He uses examples of movies. Showing how often it's the exact middle point (in minutes) where the characters have this moment.

Missy Tippens said...

Yeah, Myra and Janet. I was thinking the same thing about Mary living in the past. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Pam, Jim points out this method can be used at any point while writing. So no, not necessarily writing from the middle. Just knowing where you're heading while writing (if you do planning ahead of time). Or checking your already written middle point.

I'm very linear too. I can't write out of order. But it helped me to know where my characters were heading, and that I needed to hit that point around the middle. It also helped me flesh out the backstory. And to plan scenes for the ending to show the change.

Missy Tippens said...

Rachael, I love how you call your method a puzzle! It's a great name for what you're describing. I love that you work that way. I know others who write in chunks and then piece them together.

I'm an edge-first puzzle worker. But I also work different colors off to the side in small bunches. So maybe I could try writing with your method. I need to do that sometime! Thanks for sharing how you work.

Missy Tippens said...

Carolyne, I'm glad you stopped by! Yeah, I often have a first kiss (or near kiss) around the middle. Like I said to Tracey, I like to have a bonding moment around there. Time for them to step away from whatever conflict they have to look at what they like/love about each other.

As Vince would say, it's a reward for the reader. :) And for the characters.

Missy Tippens said...

Amber, I hope it helps you get past your stuck-ness (is that a word??). Yes, I think it should be a word in writer world. :)

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Ruthy!! You know, it's my goal in life to get you to try one of my writing methods and admit it. hahaha

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Vince! You've gone all philosophical on us again! ;) Of course, how do you fight what's in your nature?? (same with plotters and pantsers I suspect) HA!

Of course, starting in Tulsa on the trip would be great if we could drop by to see you!

Myra Johnson said...

Uh, yes, Missy, MESH is what I meant. Although sometimes all these different ideas about crafting a story do start MESSing with my brain!!!

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Missy! I would love to be entered in the drawing. Those collections are wonderful!

I actually have JSB's book on my kindle app and am planning on reading it next. I like reading and writing the LI's length of novel because there isn't as much middle in which to bog down. :-) Thank you for sharing your notes. Love seeing inside another writer's process.

kaybee said...

MISSY, thanks for the tips. I will act on them. I want to make the story a lot more emotionally rich instead of being a comic book where she jumps from one catastrophe to another. She does a lot of reflection while she goes undercover as a nun and I will definitely include your tips.
BTW, your new release is at the top of my To Read pile.

Mary Connealy said... long before I finally admit I need an editor for my comments????????

Mary Connealy said...

I clearly need to do some strategic forgetting, Missy.

Christina said...

Missy, thanks so much for sharing how you write. I loved your brainstorming notes. I actually bought James Scott Bell's book and haven't had a chance to open it. I think I'll open it while I write. Maybe it'll help me finish this book lol. I just dowloaded Coffee Shop Romances. Looking forward to reading tonight while relaxing in bed.

Missy Tippens said...

Meghan, that's a good point about 55k word books! Novellas are even easier that way. :) :) A good way to think about it for people who are terrified of sagging middles.

Missy Tippens said...

Kathy B, I hope it's helpful!

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Chris! Thanks for getting the collection! I hope you enjoy it.

Yeah, give JSB's book a try. It can only help you figure out your ending. :)

Jill Kemerer said...

Ooh! Cool idea, Missy! I really like how you shared your story questions. Thanks!!

Sandy Smith said...

This post was very helpful to me, Missy! I love to see how other authors think. This is what I need to do to figure out where I'm going with my novel I'm working on now. One of my characters is a young woman who has been estranged from her dad ever since her mom died and he didn't feel like he could raise her. I also have her being angry with God and not wanting anything to do with Him. But I haven't quite figured out why she feels that way exactly. I have some idea how she is going to be reconciled with both, but need to flesh that out as well. I will try to make these kinds of notes. I will also have to get Bell's book. I noticed it is only $2.99 on kindle. I will also have to read your book. It will be fun to see how you ended up finishing the book.

I agree with everyone who is saying to avoid a simple miscommunication. TV shows do that all the time and it drives me crazy. I find myself yelling at the TV to just ask the question! Miscommunication could be part of the plot but it has to be written in believably so the reader can accept that these people can't communicate with each other.

Please enter me for With This Spark.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I think Missy needs new goals in life! Missy, what about world peace, darling? Cancer cure?????


Me trying a new method is probably less likely to happen, and not because my brain is full like Mary's, I think she overstates her lack of available space to get out of things.

I've got the space but I'd rather slide hot pepper slivers under my fingernails than do it, darling!!!!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Can't we just all go to Tulsa and see Vince?

I would be okay with that! He and Linda are Da Bomb!!!!!

DebH said...

Hmmmm, maybe I should be a novella writer. The middle area frightens me so. It's always where I get lost.

Still think a Villager meme of Which Seeker writer are you? would be cool. Unfortunately I'm not good at those. I think VINCE should create one. I think he's the most intelligent individual who could do the meme justice.

Missy Tippens said...

Jill, I hope it works for you.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, I would think your character would feel abandoned by her dad. Maybe she could be blaming God for taking her mom and blaming her dad for being weak. Or she could just be thinking God doesn't care, that God isn't involved in our everyday lives.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Ruthy! I've got those hot pepper slivers ready to go. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Deb, you should try writing one! It's not easy by any means. But it does speed up the middle section. :)

Sandy Smith said...

Missy, thanks for the suggestions. Those are all ideas I have been wrestling with. I thought of different ways to go with her dad. I had thought about having him be in prison, but I think I am going with the idea of him having been an alcoholic, and the daughter thinking that the stress of his drinking caused her mom to get sick and die. I'm thinking the mom had a strong faith and the daughter could be angry with God because she thinks it didn't do her mom any good.

Jana Vanderslice said...

Writing from the middle is a lot like gossip.
Someone does something Crazy. You get together with your best friend and ask, "What were they thinking???". Then together you try to figure out why in the world they would do such a stupid thing.
And TaDa! You've got the back story!! :)

Jana Vanderslice said...

And please put me in the drawing! Thank you!

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, I like those ideas!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Jana!! You're right! I can just see that. :) You know, instead of brainstorm sessions, we could use gossip sessions.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jana, LOL! That's a perfect way of looking at it!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Missy, don't we do that already????



Sandy Smith said...

Thanks, Missy. I forgot to add that when my character's dad comes back into her life she discovers he has quit drinking and has become a Christian. That will further complicate her ideas about her dad.

Sherida Stewart said...

Missy, it is helpful to see your thought process, especially so for me since I've read....and loved....The Doctor's Second Chance. Though I bought Write Your Novel from the Middle a couple of weeks ago, I haven't started it yet. Good to see how you implemented his ideas. I'm ready to analyze my plot....I'll be looking at my story to check for something big and for the character's discovery at the mid-point. This method might work for me. Thank you!

Tracey, interesting thoughts about the "satisfaction and encouragement" needed in the middle of a book. Yes! Ruthy's strong/real internal conflict and Missy's bonding point ideas provide direction for me. I need to read The Moral Premise.

Kathy, sounds like a good story with important internal conflict.

DebH, "Which Seeker are you most like?" idea!

I just started With This Spark, so I'll be alternating my craft and my Seeker book adding the coffee shop collection. Such good choices to have!

Missy, I've brought a tall pitcher of our iced coffee served with Italian Swwet Cream for the afternoon caffeine jolt. Now back to writing.....

Sarah Claucherty said...


Great post! Thanks so much for the personal examples of your in-writing-process thinking; looks like something I could use in my own writing. I may have to try plotting out a story like this soon!

Please enter me in the drawing; I'd love to win a Seeker collection!

Missy Tippens said...

Ill be away from the computer for a little while but look forward to catching up! Keep the discussion coming!

Rhonda Starnes said...

Great post, Missy! I have the book Write Your Novel From the Middle. Actually, I have several trade books. I just need to make time to read them. LOL!

On a side note, I turned in my Blurb to Book manuscript last night. Now the wait begins. The good news is we're promised an answer by August 30th. :) Though I hope to hear something sooner since that will mean they bought my book. Best wishes to anyone else still working on their entry!

Jessica Nelson said...

Wow, thanks for the great tips! Like you I tend to really love my first chapters but then get stuck in the middle. I appreciate this post, and I love how you broke down the characterization and tied it into the plot! It's so hard for me to plan ahead. :-)
Thank you!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Iced coffee with Italian Sweet Cream. I never thought of doing that. I have both on hand. THANKS, SHERIDA!!

CatMom said...

Very interesting and helpful post, Missy!
I receive Jim Bell's newsletters and updates, and I'd been wanting to get his book about writing a novel from the middle - - so I think you've convinced me!
Am reading THE DOCTOR'S SECOND CHANCE right now and loving it (and love that sweet cover too).
Hugs, Patti Jo

p.s. Enjoy RWA - - I won't be able to go this year (sniff sniff) but look forward to seeing photos and updates from you all who attend! :)

Valri said...

Missy, (love your name since that's my daughter's name!) please enter my name for With This Spark! I always love Seeker collections! Nice post!

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, I like that idea of the father having changed. Nice!

Debby Giusti said...

Missy, love how you mapped out this story. Always fun to see stories come together. I just sent in a proposal. The creative process still amazes me. I truly believe it's a God thing.

Missy Tippens said...

Sherida, I think you'll really find that the book helps with your story. Have fun with it!

And thanks for the iced coffee! I always have my Italian Sweet Cream in the morning with my hot coffee. But sometimes if I get distracted and it gets cold, then I just add ice! So I love your iced coffee. :)

Tina, give it a try!

Missy Tippens said...

Sarah, if you give it a try, you'll have to let me know how it goes. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Rhonda, way to go!!! How exciting. I hope you wait more patiently than I usually do! LOL

Missy Tippens said...

Jessica, one of the nice things about this method is that you can use it after you've written the draft to see if you can boost your plot and character growth.

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, thanks for reading! I hope you like how it ends. :)

Will miss you at RWA!

Missy Tippens said...

Valri, thanks for reading!

Missy Tippens said...

Debby, I'm always amazed when I finish something. I'll think, wow, can I really do this again? And then God inspires another story idea that grows and grows. It's a blessing!

Congrats on finishing yours and turning it in!

Barbara Scott said...

Missy, love, love, love James Scott Bell's Writing Your Novel from the Middle. I've spent thousands on magazine and writing craft books, but I found more valuable information in his little book than all of them. It's amazingly helpful! I used it to plot my last novel, and I dug it out again for this one.

Julie Lessman said...

MISSY -- ACK!!! This is one of the hazards of living on a lake and family visiting -- every day seems like a weekend, so I kept thinking yesterday was Sunday and missed your post. But I'm here now, and boy am I glad! I have vaguely heard of this book by Bell, but it's really fun to see it at work in a book, and you did that so well! Great post!!


Missy Tippens said...

Barbara, you're right! It's a jam packed short book! It's one of the few I've read all the way through.

Julie, I'm envious!! That sounds like an amazing lifestyle. :)

S. Trietsch said...

This is just what I needed today! A review of GMC (with a great example) and to be reminded that not everyone has the same writing style! I did try in vain to find Carolyn Greene's Plotting Notebook. Any ideas where I can find it? (I tried Amazon, her website and eBay...)



Deanna Stevens said...

I did enjoy reading how your crazy brain works.. As a reader ~ I'm learning a lot about how authors work :)
With this Spark historical collection, four novellas from our very own Seekers! I'd like to be entered in the giveaway please...

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie, I don't think Carolyn sells them anymore. But I'll try to email her to find out if there's any way to get it. If I find out any info, I'll let you know here in the comments!

Deanna, I've got you entered. :)

S. Trietsch said...

Thanks Missy!

Kathryn Barker said...

Traveling yesterday, but just wanted to jump in and say how much I loved this post, Missy! Very helpful to see how you work things through...

Thanks for sharing!!

Missy Tippens said...

Kathryn, I'm glad you stopped by! Hope you had a good trip.

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

VERY helpful, Missy!
These type of posts really speak to me (Obviously meaning we're all a bit crazy!) or maybe because I like understanding real-life examples of how to make our books better.
The issues you discuss are EXACTLY where I am in my edits.
Need to know more of the backstory and goals for a few characters so this is especially needed.
Thank you, as always!
And congrats on the latest!
You Seekers RAWK!!!

Missy Tippens said...

KC, I'm glad you found it helpful!

Leola Ogle said...

Writing from the middle. By golly, that's what I've been doing and didn't know it. Thanks for a great article, Missy.

Missy Tippens said...

Leola, how cool that you already do that! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie, I got hold of Carolyn Greene. She's out of her books but is considering updating and re-releasing. I'll let y'all know once she has any available. I'm sure I'll want to do another blog post once she does. :)

S. Trietsch said...

Thank you Missy! I'm excited to hear she may re-release! Have a wonderful weekend!