If the middle of your novel has you stumped, use our tips to get you through the middle of your book, and beat those midway blues.
If you’re stuck with the middle of your book, one of the best pieces of advice is to focus on your sub-plot.
In a detective story I read recently, this was certainly the case. In the main plot, the middle is mostly made up of the detective tracking down a missing heiress, while a significant sub-plot deals with finding a serial rapist. The balance of tension and emotion was great.
Another piece of advice is making sure you have fully developed characters to broaden your story. For example, this detective had a daughter at varsity, a partner on the force with whom he become good friends, and a partnership with an idiosyncratic lawyer.
(Of course, in a longer dramatic book – often called a saga – what you usually have is multiple stories, held together by two or three primary characters. The book can be divided into sections, each with its own beginnings, middles, and ends.)
So, why do we fear the middle?
I believe it’s because we are about to cross a threshold and test if our premise or set-up is strong enough to carry us to the other side. Either the plot and characters stick, or they fall.
First of all, don’t give up before you get there. Write the opening as clearly and quickly as you can.
For example: If you know your story is about a rock star being kidnapped, get to the moment of capture and the fallout in as few chapters as possible.
From that point on, you can use one of these four tips to help you not fear the middle (well, at least not too much).
4 Top Tips To Get You Through The Middle Of Your Book
① Build in a few windows of opportunity
Build in a few ‘chinks’ in your opening that you can use in the middle of the book.
Let’s use the above scenario. Maybe the rock star sees the girl he once loved backstage as a crew member, or he dismisses his bodyguard because the guy didn’t protect him from an overzealous fan.
This gives you a thread to pick up on in the middle. Maybe the girl is the one who helps save him, or the bodyguard has a backstory that makes his part in the kidnapping bigger.
Whatever you choose, this will give you creative space to expand the plot and you won’t write yourself into a corner or a dead-end.
② Build a bridge
Another way to get over your fear of the middle is to build a bridge on paper and in your mind. No matter how crude or metaphorical, just get there.
What happens in the middle of your book? What scene shows this?
For example, you could just write: ‘Bill opened the door to the old shop on Porter Road and knew that he was now in the middle of it. As he put on the red apron made from thick plastic, his mouth went dry. He’d inherited his father’s butcher shop and he was in for difficult time.’
This will ‘crystallise’ the central goal of the middle of the book in your head; you could use it as a ‘marker’ in the manuscript. You can refine or remove the scene later.
③ Exploit your theme
If you’re stuck, you can use your theme as a guide to the middle.
You could say, ‘My theme is about family sticking together in good and bad times’. This becomes the lens to find opportunities to build out your story with a small sub-plot or two.
You could have a sub-plot about discovering a family of birds displaced by a storm or the family dog having her first litter of puppies.
It could be about what happens when family doesn’t stick together – maybe the best man comes from a troubled home and is arrested. Make it as subtle or dramatic as you like.
④ Dig a little deeper
You could also do a little more research, see what you can find that will enrich the middle. If you’re writing a story about World War 2, for example, maybe you can find an interesting nugget of information that can be turned into a sub-plot.
There could be a dog that travelled with the Royal Navy, or an unexpected industry that popped up because of an occupation, or a love story that will act as a counterpoint to the military action.
If we write a good beginning, and make it through the middle to the ending, we will be able to finish writing our books.
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