Saturday, June 6, 2009

No Middles

I figured out my problem with both Any Woman and A Hollywood Miracle. For both novels, I plotted out beginnings and endings, but I didn't end up with enough material for a decent-sized novel.

I have no middles.

I suppose I could keep throwing complications at my characters. I would have plot in the beginning, a long string of complications, and plot at the end. I think that would be annoying to read. And to write. And I'm not sure if the result would be a strong enough novel to pursue. For either novel.

It makes me wonder if I'm a panster, rather than a plotter. As in, do I write by the seat of my pants, rather than plot?

The evidence is clear for the "panster" approach. When I wrote Starcaster and Forging a Legend, I was a panster for both. For Starcaster especially, I had no idea where I was going. I threw Tory in a sticky situation, and I let her figure her way out of it. The same for Forging a Legend. No clear ending, but when the idea for my ending did come to me, it was like a bolt out of the blue. And I really liked it. Abriel really faces what you would call "insuperable odds" to achieve a worthwhile goal.

The drawback was both took about five drafts. For Forging a Legend, which is the novel I wrote first, I had about 30,000 words in deleted scenes. For Starcaster, about half of that.

Fortunately, I always have something on a back burner. I've just started Highway of Time. As of right now, it's definitely a panster. I have some glimmers of ideas, such as a girl lost in time, and her brother looking for her. 1920s gangsters and gun molls. Time-traveling magic. Old cars. Telegrams as the fastest means of communication.

I think I'll write for 10,000 words and see how it goes.


  1. Good luck with the time travel story. It does sound like fun. {SMILE}

    As for the stories with no middles, I'd probably set them aside, hoping to come up with either a complication that actually adds to the plot, or else a good sub-plot. Both can exist. {Smile, cross fingers hopefully}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. It's involving a lot of research. I'm thinking of reading fiction from the time period as part of my research. I happened to pick up a book that takes place in the 70s, and I forgot all about "magic fingers" hotel beds!

    Now I need a novel from each decade, going right back to the 1920s. I think I have the 50s and 20s covered. Oh, and my John Steinbeck novels have already given me a good sense of the 40s.

  3. Middles are the toughest part for me, too. It helps to look at a beat sheet - or a plotting diagram sort of thing for me, so I don't feel like I'm just treading water for 20,000 words. I'm actually trying to do something, whether it's reverse expectations, or have the bad guys close in, or tie up a b level layer or subplot.

  4. I would have first thought the 'panter' approach isn't a good idea, but since you said Forging and Starcaster were written that way, and I loved both of them, then clearly it works for you.

  5. Thank you, Lisa! I keep thinking of more crazy ideas for this story. I'm going to play with it for a while longer.

  6. I'm more of a seat-of-my-pants writer, too. I've tried outlining, and I know that writers who outline take much less time to write a book, but it just hasn't worked for me. All the outlining sucks out my excitement for the book, and I'm sick of it before I even write page 1. I do write a lot of notes, though, as ideas for future scenes come to me. It works out really well as long as I keep my notes organized and don't lose them!

    As for middles, well, they're the hardest part of the book to write, I think. I'm practically rewriting mine from scratch right now.

  7. I think what I really want is to write the sequels to either Starcaster or Forging a Legend, and I'm having trouble getting going with any other project. Starcaster was mostly stand-alone, but I envisioned it as an open-ended series and I have two books in mind. Forging a Legend I envisioned as a trilogy from the start, so only 1/3rd of that story is told.

    I am having fun brainstorming Highway of Time, and I came up with some unexpected twists. No true plot so far, but I do have very high-level milestones.

  8. Oh, and I know what you mean about outlining sucking the life out of your book. I use what I call "pilot scenes" to keep me inspired. My Crowley and Tory kiss scene was written long before I reached that point in the story.

  9. I clearly see the issue! CLEARLY the NEED to create write more for Starcaster and Forging a Legend is bogging your mind and preventing your from creating 'elsewhere'. The solution is simple . . . Finish the next in the series for Starcaster, and finish all the Forging a Legend ones. If only the first drafts . . . that will help to free your mind to create elsewhere.
    Writing is about releasing those creative urges.
    hows that for begging?

  10. It didn't sound like begging to me . . . but it sounds like a damned fine job of convincing. I think I'll tiptoe through those opening chapters and see where they take me. Maybe I'll even send them to you!

  11. tiptoe? Well as long as you don't inhibit the natural creativity!
    Oh yes, DO send whatever you have to me :-) I'd even take a break from my Warrior series (that I just LOVE . . . I've read the first 13 of them, 7 more to go :-)

  12. I'm honored that you'd read my novel instead of a novel about warrior cats!


If you are a spammer, your comment will be removed, so please don't bother.