Novel Writing: Taming Messy Middles

By now, many of you doing NaNoWriMo have hit the middle of your novel. Middles can be messy! Subplots fizzle or morph. Supporting characters try to takeover. Your character’s clear goal now seems like one big mud puddle.
Writing Tip for Today: What can you do to clean up the messy middle of a novel that’s spiraling out of control?

  • Don’t Panic! You may be tempted to give up on your story, but don’t be too quick to send it to the trash bin. If you’re drafting, remember that it’s only a draft. Even if your story is now very different than the one you started, forge ahead as if the “new” idea was already in place. There will be a time to foreshadow, plant or otherwise build up a plot element or character.
  • Time to Storyboard? If you are completely flummoxed and unable to make forward progress, try storyboarding as a way to organize your thoughts. Use note cards or sticky notes to summarize each scene and then lay it all out in chronological order. Step back and see where your scenes feel redundant or unimportant to the story line, or where a plot hole exists. This simple tool will allow you to restructure without any risk to the manuscript.
  • Write the Ending. Those who write novels by the seats of their pants (pantsers) often have an idea of the character’s beginning and an idea of where the character ends up. Try drafting the ending and let it tell you what needs to happens in order to get that character from A to B. The results may surprise you, and if it doesn’t work, remember that you are writing the ending in order to work backwards through the story. Treat it as if you have misplaced your car keys and go through every step you took, starting with the last place you had them. You may create a better story than you first imagined.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0Email this to someone

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

7 comments on “Novel Writing: Taming Messy Middles

  1. Hi Linda! Messy middles? I know those! I’ll opt for storyboarding any day. Experience has taught me that writing unplanned is not always the best. Aside the fact that I have to fit in new characters along the way, yes, I do struggle with with the secondary characters almost gaining as much attention as the main character.

    What a mess to clean up afterwards!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *