Every writer learns the importance of your manuscript having a good 'hook'. Your first sentence is supposed to dazzle. Your first paragraph should astound. By then end of the first page a reader should be drooling in anticipation to turn the page. Fine and dandy.
Endings are also obviously important. Does everyone live happily ever after? Are those who are evil suitably punished and those who are good suitably rewarded? Every writer makes his/her own decision, but all know to tie up (at least) the main plot line. It's fine (maybe even good) for a reader to wonder what happens next, but no one is left unsatisfied. Everyone will close the book and heave a pleasurable sigh.
But what about the middle? You're past the beginning, all the characters have been introduced, each with their own issues, and the plot lines are well underway. But, you're nowhere near the end. How do you keep things moving along at a nice trot without racing?
This is the part of any project where most writers (including me) seem to run into trouble. Since I write mysteries I worry about giving away too much too soon, or not dropping enough clues early on. Subplots are great, but I don't want them taking too much focus away from the main storyline. Subplots are great for humour, or for concentrating on one character's foibles, but I believe they should all serve the main plot in some capacity.
The trick is have the plot's path take some twists and turns but still be heading in the right direction. Many mystery authors throw in a few more dead bodies in the middle to keep the game afoot. Romance writers may add a few hiccups to their heroine's life; old boyfriend (or ex-husband) returns, new pet arrives on the doorstep, she earns a promotion at work, or takes on a new project. I have no problem with any of these as long as when I'm reading I don't think this plot just got thrown into the mix to add some steam.
How do you make your way through the middle? Is it full steam ahead as you whistle a happy tune or do you stand, arms akimbo, and puzzle 'what do I do now?'. You've got to get through the middle to get to the end. Do you stall or put your foot down even heavier on the gas pedal?Do you suffer from middle-mania?