Plot Clinic: the Middle Third

Note: I’m going to do some plotting for BBC in this post- spoilers for this book and future possible sequels under the cut. If you’re reading along with the serial and would prefer not to be spoiled, better skip this post.

Often when writing and outlining it’s easy to see how the story should begin, and easy to see how the story should end, but quite difficult to see how it should proceed in the middle. The middle third of a book is generally prone to what I call “story collapse”, where there’s just not enough going on to prop up the narrative arc and everything turns to unpleasant mush.

Of course, with “Bell, Book and Candle” I don’t even know where the story will end…which gives me even less of an idea of what to do in the middle, and I’ve just arrived (with Friday’s post) at the end of my outline. :/

So, what to do?

What else could go wrong?

Below is some excellent advice from the peerless Tami, which she shared with me when I was going through plot collapse with Princess’s third act:

Write down a quick synopsis of your main plot and any side plots (including romances) you know you’re keeping.

Ask yourself “What else could happen?” or “What else could go wrong?”
Alternately, list out your characters very very briefly and ask yourself “what are they contributing to make the plot WORSE or more uncomfortable or screw things up? What are they contributing to solve the problem?” and if you have someone not doing enough to screw things up, go back to plan A and “What else could happen?”
Okay. So let’s give this a shot with BBC, and see where it takes us.

Continue reading

Get on My Level

So many of our cultural narratives tell us to “go for it” — to “follow our dreams”, to “reach for the stars”, to overachieve. “Anything worth doing,” we are told, “is worth doing well.” Right?

WRONG. Continue reading

Location, Location, Location

As I’ve been writing more lately, I’ve been experimenting with varying aspects of my routine and seeing how that impacts production. Now, when I say “my routine” I don’t mean I put on my special Writing Socks or a lovingly curated playlist for my characters (Before anyone objects: I’ve seen people reference both of those before, and if that’s what works for you, go for it). I’m talking about really basic stuff, here:

Location, location, location. Continue reading

Writing On the Average

With seven-billion-plus people on the planet, each with a slightly different brain wiring, it’s no wonder nobody can agree on how to write a novel.

Even if you limit yourself to the set of authors with a web presence who write in English, you can still find advice and opinions that cover the whole spectrum: Write every day. Write when you feel like it. Schedule your writing. Write a small amount regularly. Write a large amount less frequently. And on and on and on…

Often these sorts of articles/blog posts come with the disclaimer that people differ and you should do what works for you. (Sometimes they don’t, and that usually means they’re trying to sell you something). But then the question becomes how do you know what works for you? You try it out. Continue reading

My Way or the Highway

In ballet, there’s only one way to do an arabesque.

Well, okay, that’s a little misleading. In fact, there are several variants of arabesque – first, second, fifth, etc. etc. And those variants will have different names depending on the school (Vaganova, Chechetti, etc. etc.). But the basic step is the same, and there’s only one way to do it: you lift your leg up behind you with your knee straight, your leg turned out, and your foot pointed. That’s an arabesque.

Writing is not like ballet. There are as many ways to write as there are people who write! Everyone has their method.

So let’s talk outlining. Continue reading