Stuck in the middle


I’ve just reached the middle section of the novel I’m writing. I went through a low point 12,000 words in, when everything felt like an uphill struggle, but then I hit my stride. However, things have slowed up again in the last week. It’s partly the sheer amount of other stuff happening with life in general. As well as that, I felt it was time to inject some extra drama to kick-start the next bit of the story, and so I wanted to pause for thought.
Since I write murder mysteries, I usually start casting callously around for an extra victim at this point, preferably one whose demise will muddy the waters and keep the reader guessing. However, it’s not practical to bump off a limitless number of characters. I’ve always got a romantic element going too, so that’s another opportunity to add spice. However, extra options are always useful, and latest issue of Mslexia provided inspiration, with a great article on how to pep up the middle of your novel. Jennifer Snow, who wrote it, recommends:
  • introducing a twist to make your main character’s goal much harder to achieve
  • unexpectedly robbing your MC of someone they rely on
  • introducing a deadline
  • involving others in the MC’s conflict (children, elderly parents etc)
  • making your character realise they’ve been chasing the wrong goal (man, suspect etc)
  • introducing a new character to create conflict
I love Mslexia and have blogged about it before. I’d definitely recommend subscribing.
I’ve also discovered ideas online. On his terribleminds blog, Chuck Wendig provides 25 ways to ‘mess around with’ (that’s not how he puts it…) your characters. He is definitely the sweariest blogger I’ve ever come across, but I think his advice is great. This particular article suggests a myriad of ways to complicate things if you find you’re sailing smoothly towards ‘the end’ twenty thousand words too soon.
And then there’s Jody Hedlund’s recent post on ways to add caffeine to your story. No swearing is involved
So, armed with all this inspiration, it’s time to lounge about and dream of ways to up the ante for my characters. Lovely. (And gives an unusual feeling of being in control…)
Not genuinely relevant, but fun.
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6 thoughts on “Stuck in the middle

  1. Argh, the dreaded middle bit! Some good tips there, though, to get through it. I think 'Keep Calm and Carry O' covers it quite nicely too. 😉 I find if I just keep going, head down, I eventually look up and realise I've made it to the sunny uplands of The End! Good luck with yours, Clare!

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  2. Good luck with finishing your novel Clare. You've just reminded me that I haven't read the latest Myslexia yet-I put it in a pile of paperwork and forgot about it! I also enjoy Writers' Forum and Writing Magazine and have noticed that more shops seem to stock them these days-picked them up at the motorway services on the way to the RNA Conference in Telford. Chuck Wendig has some great advice to give too. The deadline idea is used a lot in films and always adds great tension.

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