Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Your Manuscript's Menacing 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...

Photo by Eamon Curry via Flickr.com


THE MIDDLE.

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.


Elspeth Antonelli is an author and playwright. Her murder mystery games A Fatal Fairy Tale and Curiouser and Curiouser are among the top-selling mystery games on the internet. All thirteen of her murder mystery games and two audience-interactive plays are published by host-party.com. She has also contributed articles to the European writers' magazine Elias. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Antonelli, Author.

13 comments :

  1. Ah, yes, the dreaded middle... Because I don't write the end first (doesn't work for my convoluted thinking and my strong-willed characters), I haven't had this problem in exactly the way you described. However, I have had it in the sense that the middle of the story may lag because I've lost my momentum and misplaced my flow. The cure is similar in that I go back and read what I've already written to get back into the story. This is particularly effective when I've been away from the manuscript for a while.

    Great reminder, Elspeth! I love it when these posts are applicable for different writing styles, as this one is. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I *have* to know the ending since I write mysteries! I know not all mystery writers know who the guilty party is when they start, but I do. Of course, I have changed my mind...

      Delete
  2. The scary middles inspired me to come up with my conflict layering process. I didn't want to just fill the middle up with "stuff." Too many aspiring writers have what they think is an intriguing or touching situation. A situation does not a story make and that is usually the problem when they hit chapter 3 or 4 and don't know where to go from there. You have to have a central conflict and character complications.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you, Diana. Trouble with the middle is often a sign that we're dealing with single layered characters or plots.

      Delete
  3. Yes, those sagging middle can be a real downer, but once overcome, there's hope for a bright future of your book!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Since I don't plot, I never pay attention to whether I'm in the 'middle' or not. I just keep plugging away, trying to make life miserable for my characters.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 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.

    Elspeth, have you been dabbling in astral projection to read over my shoulder?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was just talking with some writers who use this technique and all of them were fans. It makes sense—as long as the ending truly adresses the protagonist's dilemma at the opening. Otherwise that great ending you came up with, and worked backwards from, can drop you off a mile sideways of the original forward-moving story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! There's another blog post! (just kidding) But, good point, Kathryn.

      Delete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...