Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The dreaded middle: why you don't have to dread it, by Yahong Chi

The beginning, the middle, and the end. Each strikes horror into a writer's heart for different reasons. Common anxieties regarding the middle include the pacing (what if we can't keep the reader's attention?), the length (what if we ramble on too long?) and direction (what if we take too many side detours?). Over at Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig has an entire post on 25 ways to tighten up your story's mushy middle. And it's always important to be cognizant of potential pitfalls.

But the middle doesn't have to be feared, either! Why? Because you have room, space and time.

Unlike the beginning, which needs to hook the reader and set up the plot and subplots, and unlike the end, which needs to tie up all storylines and leave a feeling of satisfication, you have a wide-open avenue throughout your middle. Your subplots have been established; your characters are introduced and your climax is your fixed point to drive toward. This is the time to explore every possibility that your fictional world can allow. You don't have to worry about consequences just yet (leave that to your ending). Pull the lids off all those broiling ideas and uncork the possibilities. You have room to do it!

These possibilites apply to everything. Introduce new settings to help refresh your story; with the space you have to spin out your story through your middle, you can take the chance to more fully develop and realize the locales in your world. You can introduce new characters or deepen the dynamics between current ones; there's space to add quirks, kinks or wrinkles to relationships.

Your beginning is what enables your middle; your ending needs to tie up everything you've developed in your middle. Those are big responsibilities. But during your middle? Take your time. You've got the room and space to do it.

What are the hardest/best aspects about middles for you?



  1. Drafting middles has always been easy for me, perhaps because I outline. But getting them just right, in revision? That often takes time.

  2. Middles are easy for me. It's knowing when to move toward the end and start wrapping things up that's the problem. Probably why my first drafts are so long!

  3. I always start off strong, with a beginning that is the impetus of the creative vision that inspired the story in the first place. And then I write the end, visualizing how it all wraps up. Doing this lets me see the change that the character(s) experience and having to work towards that change is what helps me stay the course in the middle. Otherwise, I'm always in danger of overplotting myself!

  4. My middles always start out kind of vague and later on in revision I get sparks that I want to expand on. I want to hop on your positive approach for this book I'm working on now - I'm slogging through it...maybe a new setting is just the thing? Great post!

  5. I see the middle as the place to unwind the plot. Making sure everything I write moves the reader closer to a fulfilling end. I spend the longest time with the middle, so I want it to be as strong as the beginning and end.
    Great post.

  6. It's so great to see some discussion about the middle of a book. I always seem to get stuck there, trying to make threads connect so the ending will work.

  7. I'm good with beginnings and endings, but struggle with the middle. Thanks for your great info.

  8. Right now, I'm struggling with everything--even though I usually love middles. I think I might employ Joe McGee's technique, and write beginning and end first for this one...

  9. Middles do make me nervous, but I love this positive attitude. Thanks!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!