Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Muddle in the Middle

Cara Lynn James


When I start a new novel, I know what the story is about and I have a good idea about how it will end. For me, the first three chapters are the fastest to write because I’m enthusiastic about my characters and my plot. Everything seems fresh and doable. Even though the ending might be a little foggy at first, I’m always confident things will clear up somewhere before the Black Moment in Act 3. I never worry about the ending. By the time I finish the middle section, I know my characters well enough to understand what should happen to them.

My major problem has always been the middle, what needs to happen there and how do I keep it from sagging? It’s a really long way from Act 1 to Act 3 and you just can’t expand the beginning and the end enough to have them meet in the middle. No, you have to write Act 2 and keep the reader hooked so she doesn’t put the book down or throw it in the corner. This can be a difficult section to write. It’s long and often feels endless, with about the same number of words as the beginning and the ending combined.

I know where I’m going but I often don’t have a clue about how to get there. Where should I put the first kiss? Does it really matter where it goes? At what point should the hero and heroine grow close enough to confide their deepest feelings to each other? I’ve read plenty of books on plotting and I should know how to answer all the questions I have. Yet somehow the muddled middle seems vague and always a huge challenge to conquer before I arrive at Act 3.

The hero and heroine are also confused and lost at this point. Their lives are changing and they have many things to learn about themselves and each other as they move forward.   


In Act 2, the heroine has challenges and choices she has to make which are determined by her values and goals. These will have both consequences and obstacles. The road through the middle is never straight or smooth, but that’s what makes it interesting and keeps us reading. Disappointments and Y’s in the road (and how the characters deal with them) cause us to turn the pages as fast as we can and sometimes ‘force’ us to stay up half the night reading.

I recently discovered Conversations with a Writing Coach by Susan May Warren. It really helped me take the muddle out of the middle. She divided all the elements needed in this section into four easy parts.

Act 2

Part 1: The Attempt and Failure of the Goal


The character’s GMC — goal, motivation and conflict — is worked into the beginning of the story in Act 1.

But in the second act the hero discovers attaining his goal isn’t as quick and easy as he expected it would be. He fails to reach his goal at least once and that failure makes everything worse. He’s now worried about the possibility he might not reach his goal. He’ll get discouraged and wonder if he really wants to go on this journey after all. If he doesn’t have the gumption to continue, his story ends prematurely.

So the writer ensures his hero has fortitude and determination, qualities we expect to see in a hero.

Part 2: Cost and Consideration and Rewards

In this part of the story, the character changes. Right after she fails her first attempt to reach her goal, she realizes she’ll have to regroup, and take a good look at her weaknesses and realize the truth. If she wants to reach her goal, she’ll have to change. If her goal is worth fighting for, it’s going to cost something she doesn’t want to give up.

Give her time to reflect on what character change will cost her. Have it be extremely important to her, even brutal, something that is a true sacrifice.

Remember, if the goal and the sacrifice aren’t very important to the heroine, they won’t be to the reader either.

Now that she has made a first attempt and failed, and you’ve given her a glimpse of what it will cost to succeed, she has to see past the Costs to the Rewards. She must believe she can achieve her goal and it will be worth it despite the difficulties getting there.

This is a wonderful spot for the heroine to put her trust in the Lord and ask him for guidance and strength. She realizes reaching her goal might very well be too difficult, or even impossible, to attain all on her own.

Seeing the costs and rewards will make her look inside herself, to ask why the reward is worth fighting for. She’ll question the strength of her motivation. If it’s not strong enough, then the story will come to an abrupt and unsatisfying end. The heroine has to believe her attempt and cost is worth the struggle. A heroine doesn’t give up at the first challenge or roadblock she encounters.


Part 3: The Man in the Mirror

Just how much is the heroine willing to pay to reach her goal or dream? When she tries to balance the cost against the reward, the heroine will discover the crux of her hero’s journey and her true desire.

She has to decide if her goal is her own or if it’s someone else’s goal for her. Maybe she’s a ‘go along to get along’ kind of woman. Her well-meaning but misguided mother may be setting the agenda. Or the heroine might not want to cross a manipulative acquaintance who might be vengeful.

So she has to look deep inside herself to understand what she really and truly wants or needs and not let herself by swayed by others who don’t have her best interests at heart. She knows her own mind and heart, they don’t.

This is where true change begins to take place. It’s all about the person she wants to be. When a character looks inward and asks, “Who am I? Am I willing to change to get what I desire?” then we begin to see true change.

After the heroine takes a good look at herself and what she wants, she will try to reach her goal again. This takes a lot of courage. But now you’ll let her succeed in her quest, just enough to give her a taste of victory. She feels like she’s accomplished something and this gives her confidence to continue on her journey. This happens in about the middle of the second act.
Part 4: Training for Battle

The hero will suffer through a number of tests such as interpersonal challenges, maybe even physical challenges. He’ll encounter obstacles that are difficult to overcome, physically, emotionally or mentally. Again, he’ll look inside himself and learn to adapt to change and conquer the barriers to his goal which he encounters through out the middle of the story.

Follow these principles: Every obstacle the hero faces must make the journey more difficult, causing him to dig deeper. He’ll find a character trait he didn’t have before. He’ll get better at the new skills he’s learning.


Each time the hero improves his skills, he becomes more of the person he wants to be, and he has a glimmer of hope. So give him a glimpse of something he longs for. Let him kiss the girl. (Now I know where to add a kiss!)

When the hero and heroine feel empowered and on their way to victory, you’ll pull the rug out from under them.

And that brings them into Act 3, the final act. But since they’ve grown and matured and developed important skills, they’ll be prepared to face the problems that lay ahead. 


Let's talk about your Speedbo project. How's your middle coming along? 




I’d like to give one commenter a $10.00 gift certificate to Starbucks. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.

             
This Week's Speedbo incentive includes a Kindle Fire! Details here.

98 comments:

Keli Gwyn said...

Good morning, Seekerville! It appears I'm the first one here. How cool is that? Since I am, I'm putting out a platter of quiche with spinach, ham and cheddar. I'm not a coffee drinker, so I'll leave that to someone who is. I am a tea drinker, so help yourselves to a selection of fruity herbal teas.

Thanks for the great post, Cara. Lots of wonderful information. I'm going to save the link so I can refer to this one again.

Cindy W. said...

Great post Cara! A lot of "meat" to chew on this early in the morning! I will be back later on to gnaw on it a little more. Thank you for sharing!

I pray everyone has a blessed day and a wonderful and blessed Resurrection Sunday!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Keli! Thanks for the quiche. I love quiche but I haven't made any in a long time. If I have leftover ham next Monday I think I'll make one. Also, thanks for the coffee.

Cara Lynn James said...

Good morning, Cindy! You're another early bird. My pavilion, Sparky, woke me up at 2a.m. and again at 4, so I decided to wake up. I'll regret it later in the day.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Good morning, Cara!!!!

Oh, the infamous middle, the sagging, nefarious, middle-of-the-story!!!!

Boy, Cara, you gave some great tips here, and I agree. I often find that unexpected characters show up in the middle of my stories, and I have no idea how they got there, but all of a sudden BOOM! and they underscore the hero or heroine's conflict or thrust and maybe reflect their story and it's like placing a support beam across a 20 foot room.... It adds enough traction that the middle stays afloat.

And of course, Mary would shoot people.

That helps, too.

I tend to have a gut-wrenching, non-firearm-related event....

And I always look to the emotion I want to evoke at that point of the book. If the emotion is right, then the middle will follow along. Forced sadness or joy falls short, so I've learned to listen to the rhythm of the story as I re-read 100 pages at a time. That hard copy re-read at about the 100 page mark (then 200, 300, etc.) is a huge help to me because it helps me "see" and feel what should happen next.

I'm grabbing coffee, Keli!!!!! Thank you!


Oh, Sparky!!!!!

Kate said...

Hi! Good luck everyone on the Speedbo! As a teacher, I'm just trying to keep up with lesson plans!

Thanks for the post and giveaway!!!!!!

Jill Kemerer said...

I'm taking notes on this one, Cara! When I'm plotting, I have bouts of staring into space, thinking duuuhhh. Those middle chapters Are hard to figure out!

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Kate! I can't imagine how a teacher would have the time to write, let alone do Speedbo. But that's just me — lots of people with busy jobs still write prolifically.

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, CARA! And thanks for those muddled middle tips! I write a synopsis for my proposal submission, so I have a "middle" in mind. It's high level, relatively vague in the synopsis, though, a taste of what will be found there. But it's a whole different story when it comes to fleshing out those innocent few synopsis lines over a big chunk of chapters so that the reader keeps eagerly turning the pages ! Thank you!

Cara Lynn James said...

Jill, I'm glad this helps. If I don't have a short synopsis of some sort, I also end up staring into space. I found following the structure I wrote about really keeps me on track. Everyone has her own method of writing. Personally, I need a roadmap to follow.

Cara Lynn James said...

Ruthy, I wish I could kill off a character when I'm not sure where to go, but that wouldn't work with my normal stories. Maybe a death would work. Still, for me, I think that would create more problems than it would solve. A 'gut-wrenching event' fits my stories better.

Ruthy, you've certainly figured out how to keep your novels moving forward!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Welcome, Cara! This post is a keeper for me as I near the middle of my current project. Great stuff...thanks so much!

Cara Lynn James said...

Glynna, I agree it's very hard to flesh out the chapters and scenes even though you know what has to happen in the middle. I often write what the a is supposed to do (scene goal) and that helps me. Of course, I'm flexible, too.

Cara Lynn James said...

Jill W, I hope you enjoy writing the middle and fly right through it without problems!

Elizabeth Van Tassel said...

Thank you for this great post! I write young adult/middle grade fantasy adventure so definitely love tips to keep the pace going. I used the popular techniques from The Hero's Journey and loved hearing him at ACFW a while back. I also like some of Randy Ingerman's techniques and Jeff Gerke's tips are super.

Up very early working on Speedbo goals so thanks for keeping up the motivation too!

Julie Lessman said...

WOW, Cara, great post, my friend, and I don't even muddle with middle, but I definitely learned something today that made me take a long, hard look. And in doing so, I realize that one of the reasons my books are so long is that my middle goes on and on and on, so your points have really helped me to assess that and hopefully correct it. Because honestly, I'm getting to the point where I'm hoping door-stopper books are behind me. :)

YOU SAID: When the hero and heroine feel empowered and on their way to victory, you’ll pull the rug out from under them."

LOL, now THIS I don't have any problem with, but I found it interesting that you have it as the last point. I always worried that my rug-pulling (that surprise twist that makes a happy ending seem impossible) was too late in the book, but according to your points, I'm usually right on time, which makes me feel a whole lot better than I felt before. :)

Great post, my friend!

Hugs
Julie

Kelly Bridgewater said...

Cara, thank you for the encouragement. Sometimes my middles don't feel right, so I take a break and come back. Need to add this article to my Seekerville binder.

Right now, I'm at 36,000 words for my 45,000 Speedbo goal. The end is in sight...But the boys are on Spring Break now. Should be interesting.

Have a blessed Easter everyone!!!

kaybee said...

Thank you, CARA. I stopped reading in the middle of this and made some notes as to what my Speedbo characters should do and experience next. This helped me develop their characters a little more.
May check in later,
KB

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cara What a great post on the miserable dilemma of the middle. Thanks for all the great tips. I need to print those and compare them to the middle of my current wip. I love finding places to put exciting stuff in. Its like doing a puzzle.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Keli for the quiche and coffee. Hits the spot as I get busy and start writing.

Janet Dean said...

CARA, thanks for this terrific post on writing the novel's middle! Though I'm not there yet, I'm going to refer to this information when I am.

I'm not familiar with Conversations with a Writer Coach, but have attended Susie May Warren's workshops at conferences. She's a excellent teacher of craft. Is this her blog?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Keli, thanks for breakfast!

Janet

Dana R. Lynn said...

Thank you Cara! I am right now in the muddle/middle in my current WIP. I have Conversations with a Writing Coach on my kindle. I think that may need to be the book I read next. I also like using James Scott Bell's book Super Story Structure to keep me on track.

I'm not really where I want to be with my Speedbo goals. They were too ambitious, so I cut them in half. My new goal is to reach 35K on my WIP. I'm about 12K short of that, so I think it's doable.

Deanna Stevens said...

Thanks for the morning treat Keli! I always enjoy the comments here and learning so much about how a book comes together :) May you all have a great speedbo day!

Cara Lynn James said...

Keep going on Speedbo, Elizabeth! Good for you. I've used the hero's journey and several other story methods,too. It's important to find the best one for you.But I also incorporate elements from all of them!

Cara Lynn James said...

Julie, I can't imagine you ever being at a loss for words, at least in your books. Do you ever have trouble wondering where the story should go next? I know you don't have ANY problem with emotion!!!

Cara Lynn James said...

Kelly, you're certainly making great progress during Speedbo! I'm sure you'll finish even if your boys are on spring break which will make it harder, of course.

Missy Tippens said...

Cara, this is a great, meaty post! I've bookmarked it. And since I own that Warren book, I'm going to go back to it and re-read the parts that will help me as I'm working on my proposal (especially for writing the synopsis).

Thank you!

Missy Tippens said...

Kelly, that's great progress!! But I totally understand the spring break thing. My daughter's fell this month as well. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, I love gut-wrenching. Heart-stopping. Hands-wringing.

I LOVE THEM!!!!!! :)

My poor characters, they do run the gamut.

Missy Tippens said...

Dana, you can do it!

Cara Lynn James said...

Ruthy, putting your characters through the ringer makes for a wonderful, highly emotional story. It works!

Myra Johnson said...

Cara, how did you know this is exactly the post I needed to read this week? I've just reached the midpoint (word count, anyway) of my wip, and I'm trying to make sure nothing "sags" as the H/H begin to acknowledge their growing feelings for each other while figuring out how romance fits (or doesn't!) into their individual plans and goals.

Vince said...

Hi Cara:

This is a wonderful post for dealing with a sagging middle. For me, there are two basic approaches to conflict:

1) having one major stream of conflict to which you add turbulence in the middle section to keep things interesting until the ending section.

2) having many streams of conflict which take the entire novel to resolve. There never is a possibility of having a sagging middle because you need all the middle to work on resolving the conflicts.

Plot 1 -- a young widow will never marry a lawman because her husband was killed on the job. The hero is a lawman.

Plot 2 -- Same as plot 1 except the hero's wife died of breast cancer and the heroine has had breast cancer. The hero lost his faith in God when his wife died. The heroine will never marry another man who did not believe in God. As a child the hero was part of a step-family which was very abusive and he never wants to have children of his own. The heroine has two small children. Hero and heroine first meet because they are working for opposing political candidates running for the same office. One humilities the other in a debate as the story opens. (Ala Darcy being overheard by Elizabeth insulting the Bennet family at the start of P&P.)

What's nice about having multiple streams of conflict is that it allows for small victories along the way, (or what I call mini-HEAs), as one or another conflict is resolved.

(BTW: expert authors can often make the resolving of one conflict unexpectedly make a remaining conflict even more difficult to resolve. The reader is all happy for a few pages and then it hits her...things are even worse now than before! I just love it!)

Of course, it is much harder to juggle nine balls than one ball and even harder still to make juggling just one ball very interesting.

Also managing multiple streams of conflict may require some plotting!!! Scrivener could help, however...

So I guess it's plot 1 and 'put on your seat belts' :).

Vince

Marianne Barkman said...

Great post, Cara. I'm surprised how many authors here have trouble with the middle sag, because all of their novels I've read don't show it! Great work, friends. And please SPEEDBO on.

Cara Lynn James said...

Glad this helped, KB!

Sandra, it is something like a puzzle. It's good to check and make sure all the puzzle pieces are there.

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

Thanks for the helpful post! I generally know the beginning and where I need the characters to end up in the end, but yeah . . . the muddle in the middle . . . This is quite the timely post, as I've been worrying about that for my speedbo project. I'm very near to achieving my goal for the month, and using this as a guide, it should give me somewhere to go for next month!

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, Susan May Warren's book is Conversations of a Writing Coach and it's on Amazon.

Cara Lynn James said...

Dana, I think 35K words is a great goal and not too short! Keep going and happy writing!

Kathryn Barker said...

Terrific post, Cara! Saving this one! Perfect timing also! I'm working on a synopsis and needed an outline boost for those tricky middle chapters. Thanks for the support!

Starbucks has become my go-to place as a special treat for my two employees for all they do at the antique mall!! Of course, I celebrate with them! LOL

Happy Writing Day everyone!!

Callie James said...

Having issues with the middle at present but this post gave me a boost. Thanks!

Cara Lynn James said...

Deanna, it really is interesting about how you write a book. I follow the three act structure. In most books there's an underneath structure that hopefully, is invisible.

Cindy Regnier said...

Thanks Cara! How's my middle coming? Well, I keep changing up my ending which changes up the middle more than I would have guessed (not to mention the synopsis). Hope all the changing is for the better. How much easier it would have been to do it all "right" the first time.

Cara Lynn James said...

Missy, I own lots of writing books and I've read all of them. Some help me more than others. This one clicked with me and helped me get through the middle of my novella without a problem.

Cara Lynn James said...

Myra, I hope this helps you write the middle without having it sag. It such a long part of every story.

Tina Radcliffe said...

THE MIDDLE. Michael Hauge calls it Progress. The scariest part of the story.

Arrgh. I can use any help I can get, so thank you, Cara.

Tina Radcliffe said...

You know, Cara, I don't think I ever heard you admit if you are a pantser or a plotter by nature? Care to fess up?

Sandy Smith said...

Cara, I have been looking forward to this post this week as I am working on the middle right now and really struggling with it. But in reading this I think I'm on the right track. My book is about a tornado that strikes a town and how it affects the characters. I have three storylines that also intersect. In my Speedbo writing this month I have been writing scenes for each storyline in which I have been putting obstacles in their path. Just when they think they will achieve their goal, something happens to thwart it. I need to get the timeline down better though.

Ruthy, I'm glad to hear that you have unexpected characters show up who become important to the story. That has happened to me, too. I had a character show up who I realized should be a mentor to another character. Which reminds me, he hasn't shown up again. Maybe I'd better go find him.

Best get to the writing now. Please enter me for the Starbucks card.

Cara Lynn James said...

Vince, I like your Plot 2 very much! I can see how you could keep a reader's interest but I also agree it's hard to juggle so many story lines. Plot 2 would be wonderful for a longish book. Personally, I couldn't fit it all in a novella.

DebH said...

hi Cara
I echo others in thanking your for this post. The muddled middle is where I got lost on my last WIP. I believe I'll be referring back to this post to help me along on my next endeavor. Really good stuff. THANKS!!!!

Ruthy - you've got the heart wrenching emotional stuff down pat. A must for any Ruthy read is a box of tissues next to me because I'm awful and boo-hoo-ing through your books. My hubby thinks its cute, although he only teases me after double checking that my boo hoos are because of the book and not because of something HE did. *heh*

oh, would like to be in the draw for Starbucks.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Marianne! It's important that all the plot points don't show. It shouldn't seem as if the writer labored over the structure.

Cara Lynn James said...

Rachael, these ideas for the middle helped me, too. The beginning always seems crystal clear to me but the middle is dense fog. It's where I make the most plotting mistakes.

Cara Lynn James said...

Kathryn, I'm glad this info can help you with your synopsis which is also difficult for most of us!

Cara Lynn James said...

Keep writing, Callie!

Cindy, I don't like to do synopsis. But I do write out the story for myself and then try to find all the holes in the plot. My critique partners help, too. Maybe you can write several possible endings and pick the best one before you get to the middle.

Cara Lynn James said...

Tina, by nature I'm a plotter, but I'm not disciplined enough to really stick to an outline. It guides me so I don't go astray and run down rabbit trails. The muddled middle has always scared me because I never knew what went where.

A lot of my creativity comes when I'm deep into the story. So I deviate from my outline but only if I think my new idea is much better than my original. I guess I'm a combination plotter and panster. I'd never force myself to stick to an outline if it wasn't working. On the other hand, I could never just write without having a good idea of where I was going. For me it would be like driving from Florida to Alaska with only the north star to guide me.

Cara Lynn James said...

DebH, it's interesting to learn I'm not the only one who find the middle hard to write. Some writers I know have a difficult time with the ending. If you think the story through as much as possible and know your characters, I think the ending will come to you.

Debby Giusti said...

Cara, I enjoyed your blog. Great info and a good way to develop a story. I'm saving this for sure! Thanks for sharing!

Happy Holy Thursday to all!

Barbara Scott said...

Cara, I'm with Myra. Your post showed up just at the right time! I'm in the middle, and my hero has confessed his feelings, but my heroine has such a fear of abandonment, she almost blows their relationship...at least for awhile. By the end, of course, it will all work out. Thanks again!

Oh, and please put me in the Starbucks drawing. I think I only have a balance of $3 and something on my card...not enough to buy my next grande skinny mocha. :)

Cara Lynn James said...

Happy Holy Thursday to you, too, Debby!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Really good post, Cara! At this point in my writing career, this is the hardest thing for me too, especially when I have back-to-back-to-back deadlines and my time for brainstorming and mulling over the story is short! I have to figure out everything about my characters in order to have enough fodder for the middle! This is some good guideline-worthy info.

Cheryl St.John said...

Timely! I am just now teaching my Working The Muddle Out of Your Middle class to RWA online chapter.
Sending them over.

xoxo
Cher :-)

Cara Lynn James said...

Barbara, my favorite is caramel frap with whipped cream. Yummy!

Good luck with the middle. I hope it flows like water.

LeAnne Bristow said...

Great post, Cara! I'm definitely keeping this one in my reference list. And great insight from Ruthy, too. I love all the great posts here. Is it any wonder this is my first stop when I'm stuck?

Barbara Scott said...

Thanks, Cara!

Julie Lessman said...

CARA SAID: "Julie, I can't imagine you ever being at a loss for words, at least in your books. Do you ever have trouble wondering where the story should go next? I know you don't have ANY problem with emotion!!!

LOL, no, no problem with loss of words, only THE RIGHT ONES at times!!

Yeah, sometimes I have trouble knowing where to go next, but mostly my detailed synopsis gives me a great base, and then my pantster personality takes over. :)

And, nope, no problem with emotion WHATSOEVER!! I always tell Keith that God went overload on me in that department and I wish I cut cut it back about 40% since already I have twice as many emotions (it seems) than most people I meet (and most writers I read). ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Cara Lynn James said...

Melanie, I totally agree that you have to really know your characters so you'll know how they'll act and react to the problems they'll encounter. Sometimes one of my crit partners will say my hero or heroine isn't acting in character. That's when I know I have to get to know them better. It's a lot easier to do that at the beginning.

Cara Lynn James said...

LeAnn, I'm glad you continue to learn from Seekerville. I do, too!

Cara Lynn James said...

Julie, want to write emotion for me??? Sometimes I find it hard to express emotion. You're an expert.

Cara Lynn James said...

I didn't know that, Cheryl!

Chill N said...

As others have said before me, your post came at the perfect time, Cara! In reading your words, I realized my WIP's middle may not be as much of a muddle as I've been thinking. It needs work, definitely, but maybe not as much as I believed before your post. That's not only a relief, it's inspiring. Now to compare your post to my WIP.

Did I say 'thanks' Cara? :-) THANKS!

Nancy C

Cara Lynn James said...

Nancy, I'm glad my post was useful to you.

Mary Connealy said...

Great post, Cara.
The middle always makes me NERVOUS.

Tanya Agler said...

Cara, Thanks for the information about the middle. I am editing during Speedbo. I was doing well until Tuesday night when I came down with what I found out today is strep throat (so thank you to all the people with the herbal tea!). Yesterday I had my printed pages out and I was crossing out paragraphs in my middle and then five minutes after I started I'd have to stop. But enough about my yesterday (I did edit six pages on paper and look forward to changing them on the computer tomorrow) because I am now thankfully on antibiotics and now I can apply what you said about making sure my hero and heroine both know the costs of the goal.

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, I can't believe anything about writing makes you nervous! You're a pro.

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock said...

Cara,

You've given me a lot to consider. I think, in my current WIP, I have done pretty well at determining the more and more difficult physical challenges my first hero will encounter initially (in part I). (Or at least I think Speedbo has helped me to keep moving in the right direction … even if I'm not completely there yet). Other aspects of my story, however, will need more consideration I fear.

One of the challenges with my story is that it weaves the lives of multiple hero/heroines with the midpoints of their stories occurring at different points. I'm hoping I can make this work, but I'm sure I still have several wrinkles to iron out before I'm done. (I hope I CAN iron them out.)

There's so much good advice in the various blogs out there, including yours today, but I have trouble keeping it all in mind, so I guess I just have to build the story by laying one brick at a time (or retroactively fixing mislaid bricks).

Not sure I've ever been great at following convention. I'm aware of things like the Hero's journey, but I just start writing and let the story be my guide. Which means I need to be extra careful to take a step back and find those muddled parts of my story, whether they occur in the exact middle or not.

I'm hoping to keep your advice in mind as I continue writing and move on to the revisions. Thanks for your post.

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Thank you so much for this post, CARA! I learned so much! I wrote the beginning and ending of my first novel long before I got to the middle, and I've started the second one that way, too. I realize now that's probably because the middle is sooo intimidating. Thanks for the help!

Toni Shiloh said...

Definitely a post to save and reread every time I hit the middle. :)

Mary Connealy said...

It's okay, Ruthy, to shoot someone METAPHORICALLY. (this is especially helpful when writing Amish fiction as shooting must be kept to a MINIMUM)

But I actually prefer real bullets if at all possible.

Cara Lynn James said...

Mary, have you ever shot a real gun?

Thanks, Toni!

Cara Lynn James said...

I'm laughing, Laura, because I'm always more confident about writing the beginning and end of a story than I am with the middle. But there's no getting around it, we have to write the middle!

Cara Lynn James said...

Lara, lots of writers write the whole story out as it comes to them and then go back to fix the problem areas. Whatever way you like to write is the right way for you. We all have different methods.

Cara Lynn James said...

Tanya, I hope you're better soon. I've had strep and it's not fun.

Crystal said...

Perfect article! I love it and have printed it and added it to my collection of great posts to refer back to from Speedbo. I would never believe you struggle with a sagging middle, well I at least believe you have never let it conquer you. I have never seen a sagging middle in your books. :-) Great points from today!

I only get a few more minutes before my hubby begs me to go to bed, (we have a long weekend starting early tomorrow), so I am going to try and get a couple words in my WIP.

Have a great night and if I do not get to post again until after Easter, Happy Resurrection Day! He is alive and the whole reason we write. May God bless your writing endeavors this weekend.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Cara! What wonderful valuable information! I'm printing it to keep in my "best articles" file. 😄 I'll refer to it again and again. Thanks!

Janet Kerr said...

Great information for the problems in the middle. The start seemed easy. I like the way you explained 'the man in the mirror' I will print this one. Thanks so much, Cara.
Jan

Edwina said...

Cara,

Thanks for a great and timely post!

Blessings,
Edwina

Kara Isaac said...

Thanks for the great post, Cara. My middles always feel like I'm wandering around in the dark hoping that at some point my hero and heroine are going to work out what's going on because I sure have no idea so this is rally helpful!

Jackie said...

Hi Cara,

This is definitely a keeper post. My Speedbo goal was to edit my WIP. One of my crit partners told me a couple of the chapters didn't seem to have a point. Your post will help me work on my middle.

Thanks so much!

Cara Lynn James said...

Jackie, I remember writing chapters that rambled and didn't have a point. I either came up with a reason for the chapter or I started over. If there's no point, there really isn't a good chapter.

Cara Lynn James said...

Crystal, I always have trouble with a sagging, muddled middle. I'm hoping I won't anymore. I guess I'm still learning what works for me.

Cara Lynn James said...

Thanks, Jessica! I'm so glad this helps you.

Edwina, thanks!

Cara Lynn James said...

Kara, when I came to the middle of a story, I always found myself wandering around in the dark, too. I vaguely knew what had to be there but I didn't know what would be better at the beginning of the middle or what should be at the end of the section. Susan May Warren's ideas really helped me.

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, breaking the middle into parts kept on track for my last novella. For once, I didn't get lost.

Laurie Wood said...

Cara, this post is perfect timing for those of us subbing for Manuscript Matchmaker. I've never thought of further breaking down the parts of Act 2 and yet it makes so much sense. Thank you and I'm going to be able to wrestle this synopsis in to submission now. And I realized I put their first kiss way too soon! :)

KK Absher said...

Oh I love this! Thank you for sharing. Now I can get back to sorting out the sagging middle. Thanks again!
Blessings,
Kimberly
T:@KKAbsherWrites

Emily Neyer said...

This was good and what I needed. I am on my first WIP that I have been working on for way too long and I am in the middle that is very muddled. In fact I wrote about 1K a during my spring break and all I could say for it was BLECK! Thank you so much. Maybe now I can figure out what to do with my middle.

jacqui19 said...

I enjoyed reading these great tips. Thanks for sharing.

Mikal said...

Oh gooodness, I'm just now reading this, and THANK YOU. I struggle with the middles all.the.time., and you've given such clear help here.

And now I need to go back and rework my middle. :D