In Part 1 of How to Conquer the Mushy Middle of Writing, I shared some stellar advice from three experienced writers who know how to take a piece of writing, be it a novel, manifesto, short story, essay or poem, from a dynamite beginning, through an engaging story arc, to satisfying ending. Here is even more great advice from two more expert writers and mushy middle-battlers.
Use Marginalia and Freewriting to Get Your Momentum Back
Writer Alice Kouzmenko (check out her blog, alicekouzmenkowriting.blogspot.com) says:
The “mushy middle” period can be very difficult because you feel as if your story is not moving anywhere. What I say is, the more you sit and stare at a blank document, the less chance you are going to have to get something done. I would advise you to start writing something different. Take your main character and put them in the middle of a different situation, maybe they’re trapped or lost or in the middle of an argument. Make it different to your story, but still use the same character. Make it intense, and action-packed. Write a few of these random scenes and re-read them, taking any characteristics of your character that you think worked and try adding them into your original story. You might want to add the whole scene and see your story move along. Try something different, and then try adding it in. Don’t overthink it. Write first, and then edit.
Snip the Hanging Plot Threads
Science fiction and YA author Sandra Barrett (check out her blog, http://sandrabarret.com/ —especially her ebooks!) points to an essential confusion of purpose as the culprit of many mushy middle maladies:
My primary advice would be that if you are struggling with the middle of your story, take a step back. Is the middle slowing down somehow? Or do you have so many plot strings that it’s become a tangled mess instead of the masterpiece you expected it to be at this point? If your story is dragging, go back and figure out how you can raise the stakes. Most stories thrive on tension. When I don’t have enough tension, I raise the stakes. I look at my main characters, whom I should know quite well by now. So based on the story and who they are, what’s the worst thing I can do to them next? Throw another wrench in the works. Give them something else to overcome.
If I’ve written myself into a twisted knot of dangling plot threads, it’s time to consider some consolidation. Merge some side characters to make a more complex and interesting single side character. Consider how critical some of those plot threads are to the story. Do they force change and growth for the main characters? If not, snip them out.
Ideally, the middle of the story is where your readers are fully engaged. If you as the author aren’t, you risk losing that reader. In a world filled with distractions, readers will discard a book that hasn’t grabbed them and held them. So take the time to make necessary changes now. Your readers will thank you for it.
Liked this advice? Want more like it? Check out Part 1 of conquering the mushy middle, with more great writers weighing in.
What are your methods for conquering the mushy middle? Share them in the comments!