Writing Advice: The Middle


Most writers will tell you that the middle of a story is the hardest part to write. Chances are that you put a lot of thought into how your story will begin and how it will end. This makes sense, of course, seeing as the beginning is a hook that will draw your readers in and the ending should be a satisfying conclusion for them. But there’s a wide gulf between the start and finish of a story, and something has to happen between those two bookends.

The temptation might be to speed through the middle of your story to reach the ending. However, a better idea might be to take a moment to slow down and think about where your story is headed. By the middle of your story, a lot of events have likely taken place. If you stop to evaluate your story, you might realize that the ending you planned so meticulously no longer works because of something you included in chapter four, for example. In a pep talk post for National Novel Writing Month last year, author Charlaine Harris wrote about what you might do if you stop to evaluate. Here’s what she had to say:

“At this point, you need to start getting all your characters in place for the wind-up phase of the novel. You can continue writing at breakneck speed, or you can spend fifteen minutes right now on evaluating where your characters are, then decide what they need to discover to arrive at the denouement….Perhaps you might want to try setting a new goal a day. Go over what must happen in each day’s pages to move you along until tomorrow.”

When you feel you’ve reached the middle of your story, pause for a moment and think back on what you’ve written so far. Refer to any notes you’ve made and think about where your characters need to be as you continue to write. What dominoes must you set up so they can fall and create your ending? In general, just think about where you have been and where you need to go. And the same goes for your characters. Stopping to evaluate your progress may help you get through that difficult middle. Happy writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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