How do you get from point A to point B in your novel?
The middle of a novel can often sag if there isn’t enough information or enough tension to hold the reader’s attention.
“Well,” the reader says as he closes the book and puts it high on the shelf, “the beginning was good, but then it all kind of went downhill from there.”
Do you want your readers to be saying that about your book? No, you want them to finish the book. Beginnings carry the book for only so long. Then it’s up to the middle scenes to take the reader to the very end.
Let’s look at it this way: pretend your book is the reader’s soulmate. They’re in a relationship together. No matter how long they’ve been together, they should always learn new things about one another, right?
You have to keep the relationship fresh. You have to keep the love alive.
There are many ways to do this. After the honeymoon phase–the beginning–is over, the reader wants the book to spice things up a bit.
Learn something new about the protagonist.
No, I don’t mean reveal that the main character has “crystal blue eyes” because one, that’s cliche. Two, who cares at this point? If his eye color had any significance whatsoever we probably should have discovered that long ago.
Reveal a new flaw.
Reveal a new motive for why he does what he does; good or bad.
Reveal a new side to his personality; as long as he can still remain in character.
Keep the plot moving.
Let the protagonist discover something new about the antagonist; whether it’s a flaw, something good, or their motive.
But seriously, don’t let the antagonist monologue and reveal their plans. Because… Been there, done that.
Introduce a new character.
Here’s the catch on that one: does this new character have an significance to the book? Will this character help the protagonist in any way? Will they come back later and somehow save the day?
If the answer is no to all of those questions… Dump the new character.
Keep the tension high.
Let the protagonist get lost on his journey.
Let the protagonist get captured.
Let the protagonist’s team members or friend get captured.
Have a character get hurt.
Have a character get killed.
Maybe the bad guy misled the main characters and now they’re in trouble, confused, and have to fix it before they continue their quest.
You want your reader to not have enough willpower to put the book down. You want your reader to try to restrain himself from flipping to the end just to see what happens.
There are plenty of other ways to keep the middle from sagging, but those are just a few ways. I’m sure you guys have your own methods on how to keep the middle enticing and exciting to the reader.
Starting back in the summer of 2010, I started babysitting two boys. I only watch them during the summer as both of their parents work while the kids are at school, which is nice. They’re one of the few families that actually have the parents home when the kids are home that I know of.
So this is the third summer I’m watching them. The oldest, Jack, is now 13 and the youngest, Sam, is 11. The oldest has ADD while the youngest has ADD and a touch of Autism. They get along really well, but…you know, they’re brothers. Despite their special needs, Jack is actually capable of being home alone for a few hours and watching his little brother. However, he torments poor Sam half of the time. So instead of actually “babysitting” I get paid to “referee.” And it’s funny because last summer was horrible, but Jack has actually matured with age…for a boy. I honestly don’t think I need to be there. But I love hanging out with the two of them, so why not?
Anyway, the whole point of this post is to talk about what Sam wants me to do. We drove my cousin and her friend to their swimming lesson a few weeks ago. The swim lesson was only a half hour long so we stayed there to watch. Sam had his Nintendo DS and his Pokemon to keep himself company. I planned on playing my game, but I found myself caught up in watching the kids swim. But somehow Sam got a hold of my iPod and was looking at my calendar.
“Camp NoNoWr…what?” Sam stammered to read my July entries.
“Camp NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month.” I laughed at his pronunciation and corrected him.
Of course, Sam has no idea what that is. So I explained the whole thing to him simply. Judging by the look on his face, he wasn’t all that impressed.
“Geez, Rachel…I knew you were a geek, but I didn’t think you were that much of a geek.” he scoffed.
Honestly, I was kind of surprised at how offended I got. Of course I was laughing, but I never really thought writing would be categorized as being a geek. That was certainly the first time I heard that, but I just don’t think Sam knew what to think about it.
“Hey, it’s writing. Writing is my career.” I replied and he stared at me funny. “Well…I want it to be my career. I want to be an author someday…sooner rather than later, I mean. NaNo is something that helps me get closer to that goal.”
From the look on Sam’s face, I now had his attention. And he seemed to understand, too. Yet, he was still confused because he knew I’m going to school to be a teacher and he knows I’m a teacher at a preschool. I explained I went to school for teaching as a day job just in case selling books doesn’t bring in enough money. But I am going to get my Bachelor’s in English. Being with children and writing are two of my favorite things to do. I can easily do both and if writing becomes more of a priority…well, my books are all picture books, middle grade, or young adult. It’s still kid stuff. He nodded an approval at my plan.
Then the wheels in his head began to squeak. Then they moved slowly and before I knew it, the rust was dusted off and the wheels were turning five miles per second.
“The Babysitting Adventures of Rachel!” he exclaimed. “You should write a book all about you and me and all the fun we have together! I bet you it will be a big hit!”
I found this amusing. Sam texts me throughout the school year every once in a while and when the summer nears and his mom and I start planning a schedule for me to babysit, he’s always calling me on the phone super excited. His mom tells me he constantly talks about me and she’s so happy by how much he loves me. If the child is not happy about the babysitter, then there’s an issue somewhere. But I was excited that Sam took an interest in my writing and he was trying to help me out. Although, at first I thought it was just him being 11, but then I realized he was serious.
“You can talk about me and you and Chance!” he continued on and on. “I guess Jack can be in there…maybe you can put Jackie and Katherine in there, too.” Then he whispers: “You know, just to be nice.”
–Let me stop to explain for a moment: Chance is his dog, Jack is his brother (as previously mentioned), Jackie is my cousin (the one who was swimming), and Kat is my other cousin (Jackie’s little sister). Continuing on…–
Then I asked a question I shouldn’t have (but I still thought he was joking): “How long should this book be?”
Uh…what? Wow, he really thought this through in the past five minutes, didn’t he? Then he stuck out his hand and I shook it.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“So I know you’ll definitely do it.”
Well, crap. Now I’m stuck. I have an 11-year-old wanting me to write 100 pages all about our fun together. How was I going to pull this one off? He had to be kidding, right? He was probably going to forget about this whole thing by tomorrow, anyway…right?
After I finished babysitting that day I thought long and hard about our conversation. I began laughing to myself and thought: challenge accepted.
A few days later (yes, he remembered), he told me that he wants it to be 256 pages now. Random number, right? I don’t get it, either. However, I did say challenge accepted, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to write that much about us. All we really do is go in the pool, play with the dog, and play Pokemon. Seriously. I’ll make the story 100-256 pages. No less than 100, no more than 256. But I doubt I’ll get to 256 pages.
I realized that I am probably going to make Sam’s life when I write this book. Of course I’m not going to write it ready for publication, but it helped spark a middle grade series idea (with the help of Kris when I told her this story) that I think I am going to write. And who knows? Maybe it will be the “next big thing.”
Today was the first day in a long time that I have nothing to do. So I told myself that I was going to wake up early, take a shower, and write. And write, and write, and write some more. Except things didn’t go exactly as planned.
I didn’t get a chance to write at all this past weekend. There were some times here and there I would have been able to squeeze some words in, but I didn’t. Normally I would have or if I didn’t, I would have been freaking out about why I didn’t get anything done. Not this time. I didn’t feel like writing and that was that.
I’m going to assume I burned myself out when it comes to writing. But this burn out couldn’t have come at another time? It’s in the middle of the July, I have Camp NaNo to finish. Not to mention I’m already losing next week because I’m going on vacation. I don’t need to lose two additional days.
So I told myself today was going to be an all day writing day. I can’t tell you how many words I have written because I literally have no idea. I am so burned out that every time I tried to write today, I said: “Screw it!”
I’m writing Cybertra for Camp NaNo and I’m ahead of the NaNo goal, but 11,000 words behind my own goal. Two days and I’m that far behind…what? I forced myself to write it and I got about 540 words done. Then I realized…I’m just not into the story anymore. I still love the characters, the plot is good, but…well, the plot isn’t going as well as expected. I feel like I want to keep the prologue then scrap the whole rest of the novel. But that’s over 20,000 words…is it worth it to do in the middle of Camp? Is it wort it to do it at all?
I heard (I forget where) that you should never delete your writing whether you’re going to use it or not. Good writing is writing and bad writing is still writing. Not to mention there might be something in there that you will like later on. I hate deleting things I write because then I just feel bad. I mean, it was a good idea at the time I wrote it, right?
So I didn’t delete it, but I’m definitely not going back to the story any time soon. Which is sad because I was in love with it when I first started. I think I just need a break. Maybe next month I can get back to it. But now how am I supposed to finish Camp NaNo?
I tried writing a couple of children’s picture books…I finished one, but it sucks. I attempted to write another, but I got about two lines in and that was that. I started Hunter & Comet, the first book of a middle grade series I want to write. I wrote about a page and couldn’t get into that, either.
I looked at my list of stories to write. Maybe I just need something brand new? None of those ideas appealed to me. At the moment, anyway. And I’m afraid to start any new young adult novels because I already have four that need to be edited.
I tried writing some FanFiction. I wrote about a page then quit.
It’s about four o’clock in the afternoon, I have to get something written. I want to get something written. But it’s not going so well. And I’m afraid today is going to be a bit of a waste since I’m probably not going to have another day to write all day like this one in a long time.
Kris and I decided to do more writing contests and such.
I’m sure most of you have heard of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books? This is one of the things we want to do. We pick book topics that we can write a nonfiction story about and send it in. If your story is picked to be in the book, you’ll receive 200 dollars plus ten free copies of the book. I think that’s a good deal.
As of right now, there are two topics that I am able to write for. Stories About Cats and Overcoming Challenges. I could write for the Stories About Dogs one, but I don’t have any real stories that pop out in my mind. I can only think of one story with my cat, Hunter, and my turtle, Raph. I’m going to write about that. I doubt it’ll get picked, but hey–might as well toss in every story I can, right? The deadline for this one is August 31, 2013.
The Overcoming Challenges one I’m going to talk about my high school career–my best friend bullying me, my anxiety disorder, and some of the teachers not believing in me. I don’t know if I ever explained this one here, but I left high school half way through my junior year. I did get my high school diploma, but I went through college to get it. It also gave me a head start on my degree, which was nice. The deadline for this one is October 31, 2013.
There are a couple of other topics I could write for, but there are no stories that pop into my head for them. We’ll see, though; especially since I have time for the two topics I plan on doing. Of course August 31 is going to be here before I know it.
I also heard of another contest through My Journey As A Writer‘s blog. It’s called Cheerios Spoonful of Stories. You can send in an unlimited amount of children’s books. Grand prize is 5,000 dollars. The story is featured on the website as well as handed over to Simon and Schuster publishing to be considered for publication. Second and third prize gets 1,000 dollars. The deadline is July 31, 2013.
I have a few children’s book ideas, but I don’t know if I’m going to have the time to write, edit, and send them in. I’m leaving for vacation on Saturday and when I come back there will be about three days left until the deadline. The book I would love to send in is still being considered by a publisher who only takes exclusive manuscripts. I’m not allowed to send the manuscript anywhere else until I hear from them, or September 7 (it’s a three-month turnaround time and I sent it in on June 7). We’ll see if I have any time this week to write up some manuscripts and give them a good look-over.
There’s also Writer’s Digest competitions. I have done a couple of their competitions before, but never won anything. Of course, I can keep trying.
I also bought a book called 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. Not only does the book have a list of publishers and agents, it has a list of contests, as well. Of course, a lot of them have already ended because I was smart and bought the book half way through the year of 2013. But it also has a list of magazines, too. Some pay, some don’t. Some have contests, some don’t. But you can still send stuff in, depending on what they’re looking for.
I told myself I wanted to have something published by my 25th birthday. Of course, when I say something published, I mean one of my young adult novels or middle grade novels or something.
I turn 20 on September 1, 2013. That gives me five more years to get something done. If I can get something published by winning a contest, even if it’s just published in a small magazine, I’ll take it. I would prefer one of my novels, but if it gets my foot in the door, I’ll be happy.
Picture: This was the look on my face as I was writing today. Yep.
Needless to say I did not write too much today. I wrote a little at school and then I wrote a tiny bit when I got home, but my grand total for the day is 1,138 words. It’s not even enough for one whole day because we’re supposed to be writing 1,667 words a day. However, I’m not too concerned because my total for the whole story is 14,557 words.
Why was I making this face? Well, I realized that I was getting to drawn into the characters for Saving Each Other. Let me tell you a little bit about them:
Sierra: A petite 18-year-old who has no money, has no job, has no place to stay, and has no parents. Her grandfather, who lives very far away, sends her money so that she can put herself through college. She is currently an undecided major and she gets bullied a lot mainly because one of her eyes is blue and the other is a milky white. No, she is not blind although people tend to assume that. Don’t let her fool you; you mess with her in any way, she will kick you to the curb and never look back.
Blake: A bum 20-year-old who lives in a small apartment with his girlfriend, Jenna. Jenna goes to school in the early morning as well as online for an accounting degree. She works at a bank in the afternoon. What does Blake do all day? He watches TV and eats. However, Jenna has had enough of his laziness and forced him to get a job. She can no longer pay for the bills and rent on her one lousy paycheck. Blake is now working part-time at a preschool with no education and experience to back him up. However, his inner child allows him to get along great with the kids.
Luke: An independent 23-year-old who has no idea where he is going in life. He has a master’s degree in business, yet he is working at a preschool. He, unfortunately for him, accidentally got Blake that extra shift at the preschool. Luke’s father was a wealthy business man who owned a lot of big companies. Luke worked for him and hoped to be just like him one day. When his father passed away, his will stated that the company should go to Luke’s eldest brother. His brother ran it into the ground, thus Luke was laid-off. Luke dreams of opening his own business, but he had no money due to the mortgage on his house among other bills. Luke knows that the preschool isn’t going to be enough for him to start his own business, but it was the only thing that was available at the time.
Do you see how thought-out those background stories are? I’m 26 pages into the novel and the reader already knows absolutely everything there needs to know about the three main characters. Oh, but I left something out, didn’t I…? Oh, yeah! They all (except Sierra) have some sort of power.
That’s what that face is saying: “How did I forget about that part? It’s the whole point of the story!”
Anyway, I introduced the powers and had Luke and Blake discover that they’re messed up and then I stopped in the middle of it because…I don’t really know why.
And that was all she wrote.
2013: 96,336/365,000 Words Written
2013: 1,749/18,250 Pages Read