Today’s Ask Inkitt Question: My book started out strong, but now I’m stuck in the middle. Do you have any tips to help get me going again?
Oh, my writer friend, you are not alone! When people mention writer’s block, my particular brand of it happens smack in the middle of my story. The excitement of beginning something new is long gone, but the ending is still too far over the horizon. The middle often inspires panic. It’s where my process drags, my writing feels stale, and where I often think I’ve lost the plot – literally!
The middle is the place where many writers give up. Don’t give up! It’s easier said than done, I know, but here are some tips that might help you get to the other side…
Write a scene that excites you, even if it’s out of order.
Sometimes we get so bogged down in the middle that our writing feels dull and uninspired. We may be looking forward to an exciting scene we’ve got planned in a few chapters. Write it now! If jumping to another spot in the narrative brings back the writing spark for you, go ahead. Even if you end up seriously editing that scene later, or removing it altogether, if it helps you with your creative flow, do it.
Cause more trouble for your characters.
Write your characters into corners and see how they extricate themselves. Create misunderstandings. Through conflict, our characters reveal themselves, and they grow and evolve. Give them these opportunities.
Use the middle to develop the subplots.
Among other things, subplots can twist the action, solve a problem, create more problems, or provide information for your characters. Subplots serve to move the action forward and add more layers to the main plot. In one of my books, the resistance fighters are hiding out in an abandoned underground bunker, trying to survive the winter. They’re starving and the only way to feed their people is to steal food from the enemy. A mission is launched. They’re successful, but unintended consequences for their actions follow. Inside the enemy settlement, the brutal dictator rounds up suspected sympathizers and begins executing them. Outmanned and outgunned, the resistance fighters still have to respond. See how developing this sub-plot got the action moving again and added to the stakes?
Use the middle to build minor characters.
Every story has a cast of supporting actors. The middle is where you can offer them space on the stage. Flesh them out. Develop their voice. What are their motives independent of the main characters? How do they complicate the plot or help to move it forward? Readers should care about your minor characters, and these characters should have enough color and life to add depth to the story. Here’s more on how to build your minor characters: The Supporting Cast.
Remember you’ll get to edit.
Take a few risks in the middle. If a sub-plot turns out to be a dead-end, you can cut it. When your draft is finished, you can decide which parts don’t serve the story well and edit them out. You can move things around and focus on pacing. You can finesse the language. You can add here, delete here. When working on the middle, just keep writing. There will be time later to turn the framework into a finished product.
The beginning sets things up, and the ending pulls everything together, but the middle provides the apple for your pie, the peanut butter and jelly for your sandwich. Okay, I may need to get a snack. But seriously, think about the middle as the place where all the good stuff happens, where most of the story unfolds. So, mix up the ingredients and keep cooking!
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