It’s NaNoWriMo Week 2 which means that, if you’re still on track, you’re now reaching the dreaded middle part of your book. I don’t know about you, but I hate writing the middle part of a book. It seems like I magically make it to 20,000 words, then I panic, the plot fails, the characters abandon me, and I know where I want to be at when I’m at 50,000 or 60,000 words, but I have no idea how to fill in the middle part of the book. Or even worse, I know how to fill it in, I just can’t get the words on the page.
If you’re not suffering from this mysterious illness where you dread writing the middle part of a book so much you start to worry you might never make it to the end, congratulations. But for most of us regular folk who struggle from middle-of-the-book-syndrome, here are some helpful tips to get through it (mostly) alive.
1. Outline, outline, outline
I’ve said it before but when you have an outline that is strong enough that you can hold on to it when things get tough during writing, then your outline is your lifeline. You don’t know what will happen next? Your outline knows. You lose track of where you’re supposed to be headed when writing your plot? Your outline knows.
Trouble staying focused on your character’s end goals? Check the outline.
For Marisol Holmes, most of my middle arc relied on building up tension and trying to solve the mystery, it involved dropping clues about the mystery and meanwhile showing off minor characters. It was, as it’s with most of my books, the hardest part to write (in comparison, I find it much easier to write the ending of a book, or the beginning) but it’s where the character develop, where we get minor resolutions, where the reader gets to connect with the characters. Don’t rush through the middle of your book, but polish it until it shines…except not in NaNoWriMo, where time is off the essence. Here you can rush, rush, rush, just make sure it still works.
2. Add minor subplots and find resolutions for them
You can fleshen up your middle part of the book by adding minor subplots and preferably, also giving resolutions/endings to these minor subplots. For example, if a minor subplot of your book is that characters A and B are fighting over something stupid, you can have them resolve their argument in the middle part of your book, so that is out of the way for the grand finale.
In “A Study in Shifters”, my subplots mostly included character relationships, Marisol finding clues and trying to connect the dots of the case she was working on.
3. Add minor characters
This is especially important if you’re writing a series but works for a single book as well. There’s no use introducing all of your characters right at the start of the book. You can keep the introduction of minor characters for the middle part of your book.
4. Raise uncertainty about your character’s goals
Another often-used plot device is to raise uncertainty about your character’s goals. Take a romance book for example – in the beginning the characters meet or if they’re already in love, everything is going fine. The middle part of the book is used to build tension, and is usually the part where the characters are driven apart, and in the end, they usually get together again.
For Marisol Holmes, solving the case seems daunting in the middle part of the book, nearly impossible. The reader might start to wonder if she’s ever going to solve the case at all, thus doubting the character’s goals.
5. Add plot obstacles
When it’s easy for your protagonist to get from the beginning to the end of your book, to reach their goals without much trouble, then your book won’t be very exciting. Instead, use the middle part of your book to add minor plot obstacles. This could be things like misunderstandings between characters, physical obstacles, but it can also be the main character dicovering his/her goals might be different than he/she first thought as well.
In “A Study in Shifters”, some of the clues Marisol finds make her question her previous findings. She also learns some unsettling news that forms an obstacle for her too. These minor plot obstacles carry the plot along and add some tension.
I hope these tips help you battling middle-of-the-book-syndrome and urge you to keep on going with NaNoWriMo. Good luck!