The Sagging Middle

IMG_1218I’ve reached the middle section of my YA novel.  As a writer, I’m a pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants. I love writing this way. Never knowing what will happen next and then being delighted when I find out.

That worked fine for the first section, because beginnings are exciting and new and fresh.

But a novel is for the long haul, and the middle section is the biggest part, and it was starting to feel arduous and unending.  So I went to the internet for help. Here’s what I found out.

I need to think more about structure and pacing and plot lines, because without some set guidelines, I’ll run in circles and never get to the end.

Instead of a novel in thirds. Split the middle section into two parts and have a four part novel. I like this idea. It makes the middle seem more manageable. I found this idea at Terrible Minds.  The writer somehow ties faking an orgasm to fiction writing. Worth a read just for that.

Stories are about problems that need to be solved. In the middle part, the hero must face some tests. He might even need to face his greatest fear.

Every scene should keep the story moving forward. Every chapter should start with a compelling inciting incident. A problem arises. Something throws the main character for a loop. Keeps him constantly thrown off kilter. This article has more good info on inciting incidents.

Look for places where the protagonist is forced to abandon his original plan and move in a new direction to meet an added challenge.

I could bring in a new character. That always adds spice and variety.

In certain parts, I could ramp up the action and force the pace to quicken.

It’s always nice to add some comic relief here and there to allow a break in the action and low points.

And lastly, when I get stuck. I can do some character prompting. I’ll put the character’s full name at the top of the page. Then start a dialogue.  I’ll ask Teddy about the situation he’s in. What does he feel about it? Ask him how he thinks he’ll solve his current problem? And hope that he gives me some really good answers!

(The above photo is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville where a major scene in my novel takes place.)

Also: writing update. I got my first rejection on a short story. I’ll just send it out again for the year of submission!!

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Taskmaster Needed

Caroline texting

When Caroline felt lost about what to do next with her novel, she called for help. Look closely at the reflection in her glasses. Is that a text from her editor? And if it is, will she follow his advice? The plot thickens…

Matthew Limpede is helping me with my novel. Matthew is the executive editor at Carve Magazine. I initially picked him by his bio on Carve, mainly because I liked the same authors he did. Matthew is insightful, easy-going, direct but not pushy, and most importantly, he has a sense of humor.

He’d read my first novel draft a year ago, and he gave me great feedback about many aspects of the story. The biggest one being that one of my main characters, Luther, needed to go. In my heart, I knew Matthew was right, because I’d carried Luther over from a different novel.

He also wanted me to back up and make a play-by-play of every single scene in the novel, as well as work on each character’s personality, backstory…

For 10 months, I reworked the novel without Luther. I finished the plot. I polished the first half. But plot fragments made up the latter half. I felt lost. I couldn’t see an end in sight. I needed another set of eyes.

I contacted Matthew. He read the new draft. Our first phone call went something like this.

“Did you do ever get around to that outline we spoke about?”

“Um, not really,” I said.

“What about those character sketches?”

“I kind of avoided those too.”

All of which was obvious by my divergent plot twists and extraneous scenes distracting from the forward motion of the novel.

We both decided, before I wrote another word, I needed an outline. But I didn’t have the self-discipline or interest to write one.

So we’ve made a plan. Matthew will compile what I’ve written into an outline. He’s not telling me what to write. He’s not deciding the plot. He is simply the architect building the structure, and I will then keep decorating the rooms.

He will also be a taskmaster. Saying. Here is a scene. You can’t leave this scene until you’ve finished it. Here is the next scene… I’m actually looking forward to being bossed around. Boundaries are beautiful things!