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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.

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Sunday, 11 October 2009
The middle of the novel is, without doubt, the danger zone. At the beginning of the book you are fired up with excitement, your mind is teeming with ideas, you even dare to think this is easy. And then? It’s a bit like driving on the motorway, there you are, zooming along, when the traffic begins to slow and finally you come to a halt. So it can happen with your writing. This is the point when you think everything you’ve written is rubbish, that no one will want to read this novel let alone buy it. You are convinced that agents and editors will run screaming from your opus. Just as in middle age there’s a risk of body parts going south, so with the novel there’s the risk of the sagging middle. I have yet to meet an author who does not complain of this problem. It is understandable. By now you’ve been with the characters you’ve created for a long time and, dare one say, you’re getting bored with them and their endless problems and angst. And you’re feeling tired too and all the doubts of your ability come flooding in. It is a dangerous time, for this is the point where so many YUPs (Yet UnPublished) give up, convinced they cannot do it. You are not alone! I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t complain and suffer this problem. I use the word suffer advisedly, for it is a truly miserable time, the self-doubt is excruciating. So, what to do? The first thing is to take a break from it. Do something else. Go away for the weekend. Put it away for a couple of days. You’ve got too close, you need a bit of space between you and the work in progress. Then reread what you’ve written. Try to pinpoint where you feel it is going wrong. Look for places where it is dragging – perhaps there is too much prose; perhaps repetition has appeared; perhaps predictability has crept in; perhaps none of these and you can reassure yourself that it is all in your imagination. What if the conclusion you reach is that you do have a problem, that it wasn’t just your imagination. What to do? This might be time for a big plot shift, which will re-ignite, not only your interest and confidence, but it will give life to the book. This is not a band-aid, if the problem is serious then this is resuscitation. What plot move? Introduce a new character. Perhaps there is a sudden death. A new love interest will help, particularly if you’re writing a romance. You could add a mystery or a puzzle. A new conflict. Conflict is a great tool, adding tension and excitement. Then decide if this works. You might find that you were worrying unnecessarily and the new plot shift does not sit well – then go back to the original. However, you might find yourself thinking “this is so much better” then leave it in. Problem solved. The worst is over then you can begin to concentrate on the end.

3 comments:

  1. Excellent! I hate it when I get to these points and its brill to have several ways to tackle it!

    lx

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  2. Thanks so much for the useful and much needed advice.

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  3. Fabulous advice, Annie! Many thanks for it. The middle's quite the hardest part of the book to deal with, and your suggestions will really help.

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