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Folk Friday and middling

Friday again. This week has gone by with the speed of lightning. I’m waiting for my students to arrive, so I thought I’d better turn my attention to Folk Friday.

I’m smack dab in the middle of Shattered right now. Had a good writing evening last night, got the first scene transition in Chapter 10 worked out. Not a huge number of words, but a roadblock out of the way. I think the next couple of chapters will go quickly.

So far, the middle of a book has been the most difficult part for me. I start quickly, full of the momentum of my new characters, and with an idea of the ending clear in my mind. Then I hit chapter eight or nine and the flow of words slows to a trickle. I know where I’m going, but which of the countless possible routes will I take? Do I need to go back and add plot threads to keep the middle from sagging? Do I need to throw in a twist that will take my characters in a completely different direction?

I know this is a common problem, especially with writers who are pantsers like me. With McShannon’s Chance, I solved it by writing the end and working backwards. Eventually the two halves met in the middle. Once I allowed myself to stop trying to write linearly, ideas started popping into my mind to fill the void.

Authors who can plan their plot in detail – and then follow it! – amaze me. So do authors who write scenes in no particular order. There are as many ways to deal with a book’s sagging middle as there are authors. Some use a collage or storyboard. I’ve tried collaging and enjoyed it, but didn’t find it particularly helpful as a writing tool as I have a strong visual image of my characters and setting from the beginning, and end up simply looking for pictures to fit that image. Perhaps I’ll experiment with a storyboard. Writers of blogland, how do you deal with the middle of a story? Anyone have any innovative ideas to share?

Oh, yes, folk Friday! Last week, an RWAC chapter mate of mine, Carolyn Laurie, posted a wonderful video on Facebook of Raylene Rankin, Cindy Church and Susan Crowe performing together in Alberta. It’s been a while since I heard three such wonderful voices that blend together so well. Enjoy!


  1. David Bowman
    October 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Like you, I'm a pantser, but my problems are always elswhere in the manuscript. I usually know my characters and my ending, but it's the beginnig I have trouble with. I have two projects on the back butner at the moment. Once a nval what if set in 1940 and the other based on the German "Operational Plan 3" form 1903 which involved the bombardment and invasion of the Eastern Seaboard. Fact! I know how the books will end, I know the guts of the middle, if not the fine detail, but I can't write a beginning. In both cases I've written four or five beginnings and scrapped them or rewritten them and then scrapped them.
    Both projects are now on a low heat – witohut an opening scene I can't use them for NANO so working on another one – where I have a workable opening that simply needs rewriting.

    Sorry, I don't have an answer.

  2. Janet
    October 29, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    *Raises Hand* Pantser here! And like you, I've written the end bits when the middle was giving me grief (never thought to work it all the way back to where I ended the beginning – must try). And like David, I've had issues with beginnings. I do manage to get them written, but then have to rewrite them over and over again – I just never know where to start the darn thing!

    Everyone's process is different – so interesting to read about, but important to know what will and won't work for you as a writer. Sometimes, I forget that and think I need to do it a certain way. Sure fire way to squash the creativity.

    Saw Rankin, Church and Crowe in concert last Saturday in Chester. Fabulous.

  3. Anne MacFarlane
    November 1, 2010 at 1:21 am

    It's all hard for me. I've tried plotting and pantzing, story boarding and outlining, collaging, using beat sheets and the hero's journey – none of it makes it any easier. But I haven't given up. Somewhere out there is the magic formula. LOL.

  4. Jennie Marsland
    November 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Hi David, great to see you here! I don't think there is an 'answer', only whatever works for you.

    Hi Janet, thanks for dropping by! I think beginnings cause grief for a lot of writers. Deciding exactly where to start is never easy.

    Anne, if you find that magic formula, package it and sell it. You'd probably make millions.