The Insecure Writer’s Support Group ~ No#88

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time.

The awesome co-hosts for the April posting of the IWSG are:
J.H. Moncrieff, Natalie Aguirre, Patsy Collins, and Chemist Ken!

Don’t forget to visit them and thank them for co-hosting!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.
Remember, the question is optional!

APRIL 03rd QUESTION: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (Examples: fight scene/first kiss scene/death scene/chase scene/first chapter/middle chapter/end chapter, etcetera)

I think it will have to be the “dreaded middle” chapter(s).
Some ideas I’ve come across on how to tackle the middle section are:
– Plan a ‘sort-of’ climax that comes in the middle of the book that launches the heroes toward the actual climax.
– Introduce a new, interesting minor character who can create fresh complications between characters.
– Change direction. Think about your ending and work backwards. Ask yourself, what happened right before this? And right before that?
But the idea that I found the most interesting, is to write everything that absolutely wouldn’t happen next. Usually by the third or fourth thing, the answer reveals itself. I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds like a great ‘out-of-the-box’ approach to managing the middle section of a story.

The IWSG Anthology Contest 2019 will run from May 01st to September 04th!
Genre – middle grade historical – adventure or fantasy.
Theme to be announced on May 01st!

Two weeks to go for the Write Edit Publish Challenge. If you’re short on inspiration, this is what the WEP blog has to say:
An old locket with a faded photo inside…A string of pearls reminiscent of a special evening…A magic jewel box that comes up with just the right piece whenever the owner needs it…A jewel box out of reach of a regular working class person who passes it in a fancy shop window everyday…Maybe a ring associated with terrible political intrigues and heartbreak?…Or…maybe a missing jewel box after a murder…bought in some faraway place…

Just some of the ways you can weave this prompt, there are many, many others. As you can see, all genres are your oyster with this prompt – romance, adventure, fantasy, speculative, crime…What use will you find for the jewel box?

How do you tackle the middle chapters of your story? Any tried and tested methods that work for you? Are you up for the challenge of writing a MG Historical story? Are you participating in the WEP challenge?

76 Comments

  1. J.H. Moncrieff on April 3, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    I’m a pantser, so the best way to get through a murky middle for me is to keep on writing, and trust that the characters will work it out. This is more difficult than it sounds–sometimes I find it really hard to trust my characters, and my process, and stress over things more than I should. Especially since it always works out.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 4:52 am

      Writing organically is a bit of a leap of faith, always slightly uncertain. You obviously have to place a lot of trust in the way your muse directs your characters. But it’s incredibly rewarding also.

  2. Jemi Fraser on April 3, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I like that idea too – saggy middles can be the worst to push through!!!

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 4:53 am

      The saggy middle syndrome appears to be a widespread challenge.

  3. Cathrina on April 3, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    The middle of the book is soooo important. Many writer’s might not see this. If the middle lags so will the reader. I feel you have to keep up the suspense, keep the reader wanting more. The object is to hold their interest so pages turn faster and faster. However, that’s difficult to incorporate into my books, but I’m trying. That’s a good wish!

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 4:58 am

      “Keep up the suspense, keep the reader wanting more.”
      Yes, definitely. It’s an ongoing challenge for the writer.

  4. Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 3, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    That’s an interesting exercise. I will have to try that!

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 4:58 am

      The more things we try, the more we grow as writers.

  5. Lynda A Dietz on April 3, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    You’re not the only person to mention saggy middle chapters. I like the idea of listing the way things wouldn’t happen. It reminds me of a writing trick I’ve heard when you don’t know what comes next: think of the absolute worst thing that could happen and then write about that.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:01 am

      That’s a good writing trick. The more we experiment, the more we discover what works/doesn’t work for the particular story.

  6. Carrie-Anne on April 3, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    The next WEP challenge sounds right up my alley! I’ll also be looking for the theme for the next IWSG contest. Hist-fic is my genre.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:01 am

      Yes, you write amazing Hist-fic. It’s your forte’

  7. Madeline Mora-Summonte on April 3, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    I struggle with the middle in my novel drafts, too. Sometimes they’re bloated and saggy but other times there’s no meat on the bones. Sigh.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:03 am

      Because I lean more towards flash fiction, I fall more into the “no-meat-on-the-bones” category.

  8. Rachna Chhabria on April 3, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Michelle, I have never tried this exercise, “that is to is to write everything that absolutely wouldn’t happen next. Usually by the third or fourth thing,” I’m definitely going to try it next time. Thanks for this suggestion.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:06 am

      It’s nice to try different methods to see what works/doesn’t work. You’re welcome.

  9. Anna on April 3, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    I find the best way to plump-up the middle is a twist. Not so much a change of direction as it is a change in perspective. Reinterpreting facts that the characters already agreed upon. A moment of clarity. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  10. Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine on April 3, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    The middle is where I always slow down when writing. I can churn out the beginning like my fingers are on fire, but the middle is a slog. Usually because I’m a panster so I have no idea where I’m going.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:09 am

      If only our fingers would fly through the middle section like it does for the beginning… *sigh*

  11. Ryan Carty on April 3, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    This resonated with me. “Plan a ‘sort-of’ climax that comes in the middle of the book that launches the heroes toward the actual climax.”

    I think this works especially if the writer can pull off the, “This is the big climax, reader.” Then pull something bigger and unexpected for the ending.

  12. C. Lee McKenzie on April 3, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    You, I, and three others (of those I’ve visited so far) all have the middle as a challenge. Like your idea of writing what wouldn’t happen. It’s mind-expanding.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:12 am

      It definitely takes the mind in an exciting and maybe totally unexpected direction… ? possibilities… possibilities…

  13. Natalie Aguirre on April 3, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    I’m hoping not to have sags in my current project. I’m trying to have each chapter have some type of problem. I’ll see how it works as I go. I like your suggestions too.

  14. Lisa on April 3, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Interesting idea, that about going backwards… Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting!

  15. Yvonne V on April 3, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I like your “out of the box” ideas for the middle sections.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:14 am

      Different methods/techniques are always needed when writing that middle section…

  16. Loni Townsend on April 3, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    I tend to push through the swampy middle by throwing in a natural disaster that messes everyone up. 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:15 am

      A natural disaster is a huge occurrence. That would upset the status quo in a serious way. ?

  17. Carol Kilgore on April 3, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    So true about making sure your middle doesn’t sag. Wait… that didn’t quite come out just right. You know what I mean 🙂

    I do the what-if thing, too… what if this happens, or that. On occasion, that hasn’t worked for me. When that happens, I turn to a friend who rarely reads fiction. I give him a very brief set up – like 30 seconds or so – and then ask him what should they do or what happens next or whatever question is appropriate. I always get good feedback, even if I don’t get a usable answer. I always find a different path to go down to find what I’m looking for.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:17 am

      I need to try this. Sometimes, discussing the situation will lead to a fresh perspective.

  18. L. Diane Wolfe on April 3, 2019 at 9:13 pm

    I need to try something. I have a story with a solid beginning and a great ending, but connecting the two without making it boring?

  19. Susan Gourley on April 3, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    I like those selections for plowing through the difficult middle. It is always where my daily word count slows down.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:21 am

      I need to build a list of ideas on how to manage the middle section of the story and pin it up.

  20. Lynda R Young on April 4, 2019 at 12:02 am

    Great tips to avoid a saggy middle.
    I struggle most with endings

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:22 am

      It’s an ongoing challenge during which we learn and grow.

  21. Juneta Key on April 4, 2019 at 1:57 am

    The middle is my angst as well. Happy IWSG!

  22. Lee Lowery on April 4, 2019 at 2:38 am

    I’m in this boat right now. Beginning and ending written, now trying to line up the highways to make sense of it. Muddled middles – the bane of my writing life. But it’s fun to explore the possible twists and plot points I hadn’t thought about.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:24 am

      It’s good to work your way out of the muddled middle as exploration gives rise to new thoughts/ideas. Never a dull moment.

  23. Olga Godim on April 4, 2019 at 5:53 am

    A writer I admire, Jennifer Crusie, looks at a novel as a play in three acts. The first act introduces the characters and puts a small problem in front of them. They solve it and move on – to the second act (and the middle you talk about). A bigger problem arises. They have to solve it before they can move on to act three, to confront the biggest problem of all. As most of her books are bestsellers, I try to listen to her advice.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:25 am

      It reinforces the idea of writing a ‘sort-of’ climax before the actual climax.

  24. Denise Covey on April 4, 2019 at 6:43 am

    Well Michelle, you’ve already visited and know the opening is my demon. But I’m getting there. They usually say the saggy middle is because you haven’t outlined enough…hmmm….Looking forward to the April WEP. Join us?

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:26 am

      Yep. For plotters, that’s the reason why.
      I’m still working on the April prompt… ?

  25. Hilary on April 4, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Hi Michelle – I usually struggle with the ends of posts … or the wobbling middle that has too much in it – still life carries on! I like the idea of working through things that simply cannot happen – which could well lead to the concept one is trying to write about.d I’ll be with you for WEP – cheers Hilary

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:27 am

      Hilary, your blog posts are always well-structured and so informative – the beginnings, middles and endings!

  26. JQ Rose on April 4, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Helpful info on writing the middle. Thanks so much. I’ve read knowing the ending helps to write the middle so you can drop clues/red herring to the ending in the middle. That makes a lot of sense to me only if I know the ending!!
    JQ Rose

  27. Mary Aalgaard on April 4, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I work with middle schoolers, so the MG historical is inviting to me. I’m interested in the theme. I don’t have any great strategies for middles. I think forging forward is the only way. I like the idea of writing down possibilities, then settling on the most intriguing! Cheers!

  28. Christine Rains on April 4, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Oh yes, that middle. It can lead to a slump. Good tips for dealing with it. I try to add in a sharp change of direction that may or may not work out for the protagonist!

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:30 am

      A sharp change of direction will throw a spanner in the works… interesting.

  29. Jacqui Murray on April 4, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Action-packed post, as usual. I like the idea of throwing in something that could never happen. I hadn’t thought of that.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:31 am

      It’s quite a twisty way of working out what WILL happen. It may also sprout an unexpected idea.

  30. Tyrean on April 4, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Those sound like really interesting exercises! I love the one about writing what wouldn’t happen next! I may have to try that the next time I get stuck. It might be a really interesting way to find an unusual plot twist.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:32 am

      It’s unusual and leads to all kinds of possibilities… some whacky… but you never know.

  31. Nick Wilford on April 4, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    I like that idea! It could probably work for any part of a story. The thing is, the middle is really where the action should be ramping up as we head towards the climax. I just think as writers we get a malaise where we feel we’ve been writing for ages but the end is not in sight. I’ll have to give your ideas a try.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 5, 2019 at 5:34 am

      At that stage, it sometimes appears as if the story is dragging along. Adding more action/suspense would give it a boost.

  32. Doreen Mcgettigan on April 4, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    I continue to be amazed by the opportunities this group offers us writers. Love!

  33. Tamara Ann Narayan on April 5, 2019 at 10:10 am

    I can’t think of any magic way to fix saggy middles other than several rounds of editing. It’s easier to fix things once you know the whole story.

  34. Tonja Drecker on April 8, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Writing everything that wouldn’t happen next in the middle is a great idea! If I get stuck, I shoot for something completely off the wall and unexpected. Either it will be the idea I’m hoping for or, at least, get those brain gears turning in new directions.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 15, 2019 at 7:37 pm

      I like the sound of “something completely off the wall and unexpected.” You never know what will unfold… 🙂

  35. Toi Thomas on April 9, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.
    I never thought about writing what wouldn’t happen to figure out what would. I wonder if this could work for figuring out an ending?
    I’m excited about the WEP entries but not sure I’ll have anything ready in time to submit. Still, I look forward to reading the other stories.

    • Michelle Wallace on April 15, 2019 at 7:38 pm

      I think it would also work for endings.
      I’m not sure about April WEP either. But I had such good intentions…

  36. Raimey Gallant on April 17, 2019 at 2:03 am

    First chapters! Considering how many times I have to revise them, I think that would save me a boatload of time!!!!

  37. Kalpana on April 23, 2019 at 7:45 am

    Those are some fabulous ideas about what to do with your middle. Thank you.

  38. Morgan Shamy on April 25, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    It’s good to see you, Michelle! I’ve loved skimming through some of these comments. I’m going to keep looking. I definitely agree with the idea of pushing through–getting to that end, and then it’s easier to go back, and fix & figure out ways to keep the tension high once you’ve already laid the ground work. Such a great group. <3

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