Plotting Your Novel by Writing from the Middle

As a writer, I am always learning. I think that’s what I love most about writing — the learning never stops. I am either learning something new about myself and writing as I write, or I stumble across new information as I am looking to learn more about writing. This time it was the latter. Recently on Twitter, I ran across a book recommendation for plotting that I loved so much I had to share it here.

Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between by James Scott Bell is must read for anyone serious about writing. This book goes into detail about why writers should start from the middle of a story instead of the beginning or end (who would of thought!). And how finding a character’s “mirror moment” is essential to true character development.

I definitely believe character development is a key element in a story. The more a reader can relate with a character and feel for a character’s journey, the better the book becomes. And this method certainly will help with that!

This book also helped me realize that I’m a Tweener (I always thought myself a straight up Pantser). I do love writing by the seat of my pants. That’s how I get some of my best ideas, but I also know where I’m writing too as well. I have a loose idea of events I need to reach and about where I need those events to happen. Also, I find already knowing my ending is a necessity to writing, even if I don’t know specifics. Just having a good idea of where I need to stop gives me a clear goal to reach for. But after reading Bell’s book I have an even better way to approach my writing. Start in the middle and Pants my way to the beginning and end. I’ll still have those events and goal posts to reach, but I think it will be far easier to get there knowing exactly what the character’s journey should entail.

And you know this book couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’ve become somewhat stalled on writing the first draft of my second novel. I think this technique will get things churning quite nicely. Thanks Bell. 🙂


Starting Your Story: Beginning in the Middle

The blank page stares back at you, mocking your very effort of telling the story that’s been haunting you for days, but where should you begin? You know that there is a masterpiece of character and plot just waiting to erupt into written form, though at times it can be a challenge to figure out exactly where the beginning really should be. The best place to start is in the middle.
In the middle of where, you ask? – The middle of the action. Throw your reader in head first right in the middle of something going on. It can be as dramatic as a high-speed car chase or as mundane as washing the dishes, but the point is to have your character actively living out their lives. Then you can spend the rest of the story catching the reader up to the important information they need to know about.
The story can begin with narrative summary, description, dialogue; whatever, as long as the reader becomes hooked from the very first sentence, so he becomes sucked into your world instead of putting down the story and finding something more interesting to do.
That is why beginning sentences are so very important. If you can’t catch a reader’s attention at the beginning, then chances are they will never make it to the end. Here are just a few examples from some authors who have managed to do just that!
The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead. Shogun by James Clavell
Whether I shall turn out to the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.  David Copperfield by Chares Dickens
I answered the phone, and Susan Rodriguez said, “They’ve taken our daughter.” Changes by Jim Butcher
I’d never given much thought to how I would die- though I’d had reason enough in the last few months- but even if I had, I would have not imagined it would be like this. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Sometimes writers, especially new ones, have a hard time beginning a story and struggle with how to present their story, because they do not know how the story will end. Don’t let this hang you up. If you begin with a good idea and have real characters then something wonderful is bound to happen. In fact, not knowing the end will make the journey of discovery that much more meaningful for you and will lead to places you may never have considered otherwise.
It’s the first words that you write that draws a reader in and hooks them, leaving them wanting for more. If you can’t do that with in the first few paragraphs, even the first sentence, you have already lost your audience, so you should practice the fine art of creating your own beginning sentences.
Try writing five of your own beginning sentences for five completely different stories. Put them in a journal or somewhere you can go back to later. Then add another beginning sentence everyday for the rest of your life. This will not only get you in the habit of writing everyday, but it will also give you some great practice writing beginning sentences, which will in turn, become a treasure trove of  new story ideas for the future.