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bear by san

December 2021



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bear by san

Middles. Otherwise known as The Hard Part.

Well, unless, for you, beginnings or endings are the hard part. For me, it's middles. (A work of fiction is composed of three parts--a beginning, an ending, and a muddle. And so forth.)

This is where the fine art of recomplication comes in. If the opening of a novel is devoted to setting up the situation, demonstrating the conflict, introducing the characters and the world, the middle is about building and maintaining stakes. (and getting to the climax, of course.)

I like to say that I just keep breaking things until I can't figure a way out, which is pretty accurate. But there's a balance to it--the narrative has to reward (pay off) as it recomplicates, or it becomes boring. In other words, you can't stretch one question for 500 pages. Well, okay, you can. But along the way there need to be mini-arcs, small conflicts and small resolutions, little victories to go with the losses. Otherwise, the book becomes, well, one-note. And can be enjoyed as well by skipping to the end as by reading the entire narrative.

That's all very vague and not very practical, isn't it?

Okay, here. So you've gotten to the end of the setup, you've hit the point where you're not sure what happens next, and you're stuck at the previously discussed Inevitable 30K (35K, 40K) Wall. You are staring the Dreaded Middle Of The Book in the eye, and it's not looking down.

What do you do?

This is the time for the first major reversal. Give the characters something. Take something else away.

Jean Valjean agrees to rescue Fantine's daughter, but he's also confronted with his Wicked Past. Conflicting obligations! And a cop is on his trail! Raise the stakes!

Send in that man with the gun. Kill somebody. Get somebody laid. Hand him the key to the puzzle and then snatch it away. Change it up!

Open three books you like to page 150 and see what's going on. Flip a few dozen pages to either side. I betcha, in most of them, something Big will have just changed.

And then you follow the implications of that reversal to the next reversal, and so on, until everything goes boom.


like that.



Thanks for that post, btw.

Psychologically, the first 10-15K words seem hardest to me, because it's not long enough to feel like a book yet. Craft wise, I'm completely with you on the muddle.

Which doesn't seem to happen with short fiction, not even novellas. Is the muddle the distinguishing feature?
I don't think they're long enough to, er, have a muddle. It's conflict conflict conflict BOOM!
Oooh! Ohh! Thank you!
Good stuff. Thanks!
Thanks for that. I have several unfinished novels that stalled at the 30-40K wall. That's because the point where it got hard also happened to be the point where I realised that the whole idea was just rather bleah. They're consequently trunked and I doubt that any of them are salvageable. *g*

Where the idea is basically sound, I can push on through that wall, but I do find Middles difficult. Especially when I look at my notes and see, "Lots of interesting and funny stuff happens."
*g* They *all* seem bleh about 35K. Because you've been writing them for a month or six and you're sick of these people already.
Thanks for the tip... memorized? memorialized? memoried? whatever marked out for future reference, as it's the Yawning Chasm of Middles that tend to swallow my stories down.

-- Steve's gotta get back on that wagon someday. (Maybe today?)
You know, this is actually very reassuring.

Someday, I'm going to get writing again, and when I do, this will make me feel better. I'll think, "I'm not pathologically limited in my ability to think past 35K, I'm just hitting the middle bit, that's all." And then I'll find something to break, and hopefully that will help no end. Someday. :P :)

...Good thing I'm not the professional, innit?
*g* That's how we all do it.


I'll see your Magpie icon and not raise you much of anything.

You all go ten months producing maybe a page and a half of text that gets kept?

Lady, I've watched your progress reports. I don't think so.

Re: I'll see your Magpie icon and not raise you much of anything.

*g* I've gone three years without producing a single page that got kept.

The secret to writing is deciding that all you have to do is finish. There's a reason we don't let writers decide whether they're any good or not.

Re: I'll see your Magpie icon and not raise you much of anything.

The secret to writing is deciding that all you have to do is finish


You're good at this, you know that?

Re: I'll see your Magpie icon and not raise you much of anything.

*g* Just got the t-shirt, is all.
Thanks :D


Middles are precisely where I get stuck in my fics. I can write pretty good beginnings, and I have a great ending in mind (which I don't write until I get there, because I don't always know how the characters/relationships will change before they get there) but then suddenly I need a certain amount of time to pass before the big payoff and it gets boring.

I'm going to start throwing a few more complications at my characters and see if anything feels right...