I’m a list-maker, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that when I’m writing my novel, I’m an outliner. A plotter who works off an outline rather than a pantser who writes off the cuff. I don’t have problems with beginnings or endings, but I do struggle with middles. Which is kind of strange, because the middle is the entire story, right? I think my problem is narrowing down my choices, narrowing down infinite possibilities to choose the best plot events and points that will best support a satisfying ending. I like having the structure but try very hard to hide it.
A few authors were commiserating on Caroline Starr Rose‘s FB page about this struggle (which arises with each new work) and people were suggesting their favorite go-to writing guidebooks. Through that post, I was delighted to discover Write Your Novel from the Middle by author and writing teacher James Scott Bell. This is a slim volume, readable in under an hour, but will feed your writing imagination for much longer. Bell suggests that there is one moment in the midpoint of your novel that summarizes everything your story is about, and once you hone in on this moment and articulate it, you will be able to write up to it (the beginning) and past it (the ending) much better and stronger.
Whenever a great idea falls in my lap, my brain starts firing off. That’s how I know it’s a good idea. I opened up my WIP outline that I’ve been reworking during this re-write, and started to look for that midpoint moment…I didn’t have one! Ah ha! Back to the drawing board! I’m also re-evaluating my beginning and ending, and seeing if these areas can give me any clues about pulling out the best theme for my book. I’ve re-written the story a few times, and I think that’s caused me to get a bit tangled in infinite possibilities, but I’m eager to sift through these with this new tool and make the story stronger.
What’s your current favorite go-to writing guidebook?