Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Escaping the Middle

Spiders. Snakes. Dark alleys. Thumps in the middle of the night.

Scary things, yes, but nothing strikes fear into the heart of a writer more than...


The place where plots go to die.

The place where characters reveal themselves to be flat, unimaginative and straight-out dull.

It's a place from which you're sure you'll never escape.

Well friends, I've been to the middle and come out the other side. How, you ask?

First, let me say it wasn't easy. Second, let me say it wasn't pretty. There were colourful metaphors flung about. There were clenched fists. There was a finger sneaking toward the delete key.

But I escaped. By moving backward.

Let me explain. I knew my ending, so I wrote that. I also knew what had to happen right before the ending. Wrote that. I kept working my way backwards, step by step until I found myself back in the middle. I then discovered that I needed only a few scenes to bridge what I had written backwards to what I had written forwards. (if you understand what I mean).

So; my message today, is fear not the middle, gentle writers all. If I can find my way out, anyone can.

But, look out for spiders and snakes.


  1. I then discovered that I needed only a few scenes to bridge what I had written backwards to what I had written forwards. (if you understand what I mean).

    Yes, I do! And thanks to you and other helpful bloggers, I think I am beginning to learn to do it!

  2. Great advice as usual. Going backwards will often solve the middle sag. It happens so often, even in published books. You just want to scream Fix the Middle!!

  3. I’m nearing that treacherous point in my current WIP, so I’m bookmarking your wonderful advice in the hopes I can be a survivor, too!)

  4. "I've been to the middle and come out the other side."

    Print it on a t-shirt. Other writers will recognize you :)

    Great advice.

  5. Dorte; I hope this works for you!

    Karen; Trust me, I did my fair share of screaming.

    Jane; Best of luck - perhaps the middle will be easy for you. I have every confidence you'll make it through with minimal problems.

    Carol; That's a good idea. i wonder if other writers would want one? I can always use extra cash...

  6. Elspeth - Thank you for this wonderful advice!! What a timely post, too, as I am busily escaping from the muck and mire of the middle of my own WIP. I like your idea very much of working backwards. I think one of the things that most appeals to me is that it is a way to think outside of the proverbial box. I will leave the snakes and snakes in the box and just climb out myself.

  7. Margot; Rule #1: Never get in a box with snakes. Rule #2: See Rule #1. I'm thrilled if my suggestion may help! You GO!

  8. Fantastic picture and great advice! I've been there as well and it does work.

    Carol's suggestion for a shirt is great!

    No snakes in boxes here...I hope. :)

  9. Wow, that's one of the most scary pictures I've ever seen!

    But yes, your post is intriguing. I've never wrote a book that way. I always start at the beginning and work my way to the end. It's an interesting process however.


  10. oh yes, that's what I did on this revision - backwards and forwards as if I were a truck on a back road in March. Yep, making those ruts deeper and deeper. Then I got out the dynamite. Nah, I didn't. I am getting through after my little diversion with my mystery. Back to work - lash!

  11. That picture scared me!

    I drop bodies into the middle of my book. :)

  12. Oi! I so hate middles!!! I have begun taking the 'I'll fix it later' approach and powering through, knowing it is crap, and then coming back. It's painful, but like you with the ending and working backward, it is much better when you know where it needs to go and what it has to accomplish. I am currently editing the middle of my MS... for the 3rd time.


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