Now is the moment of my discontent – 99,000 words and I’ve reached a part of the novel I always struggle with – the middle. Writing all the characters into the story is challenging but at the same time, vastly rewarding. Writing the end always races away in a flurry of heightened tension, climax and the tying up of loose ends. But this middle section – putting actual words to character arcs, building that all-important tension, foreshadowing what is to come and walking the characters to the climax in ways that make sense – this part is hard work. No other way to describe writing the middle.
For me, creating my first draft is a constant process of zooming in and zooming out. When I get stuck, like I am right now with the middle, zooming out is what is needed.
I do this by creating lists, tables and maps. I went chapter-by-chapter listing the characters mentioned in each one. I don’t want to lose track of anyone and I don’t want readers to get to know an interesting character, only to have that character disappear then pop out of nowhere near the end of the book. If you’ve ever had this experience as a reader, you know it’s darn disconcerting. Another stepping back task was to create a table linking characters with their storylines, number of point-of-view scenes and how the storylines cross over from character to character. That was a colourful chart. Next came multiple attempts at mind-mapping major themes. I ended up with a simple chart of overarching themes with three subthemes and a few points under each of these. Every storyline can be subsumed within these themes.
After those exercises, I felt back on track. How do you find writing in the middle? If you had a preference, would it be beginning, middle or end?