Working the Middle
It’s easy to get lost in your own story. After all, you’ve created these wonderful characters to spend your time with, and sent them on incredible, if sometimes unbelievable, adventures. You might also have painted lush settings ripe for exploring. Then there comes the day when you pull away from the story, look around and say…
“Where the hell is this all going?”
If you can’t answer this question, you need to stop right where you are and figure it out. Otherwise, you’ll write yourself in circles with material that will all end in your Deleted Scene File (You are keeping a DSF, aren’t you?)
I’m going to throw you a couple of suggestions to help you answer that question. For this next part, I’ll be speaking mainly to the pantsers out there. The outliners don’t seem to struggle as much with this part of the story. Although that shouldn’t stop you from trying it. Just because you have an outline doesn’t mean you have to stick to it.
Try going back to a key turning point in your story. Change what happens, and write about 1,000 words based on the new outcome. Does it work better? Does it resolve the wall you might have bumped into? Whichever scene you decide to go with, throw the other in your DSF. That way you can change it back without the extra work.
Try a character interview. In separate document, throw out a bunch of questions to one of your characters. Of course you’ll ask important questions related to motives and personal goals, but don’t forget to throw in some random questions, too. Ask things like “What is it about your favorite junk food that keeps you snacking?” or “What is your most useless talent and how did you develop it?” Just make sure it’s an open-ended question, and you might be surprised at the gold that can surface. Maybe a character has a talent you didn’t realize that would take you to the next part of the story. These random questions also help jog your brain to look at your story from a new angle. That’s always helpful.
Put the story down and write something else for a while. The worst thing you can do as a writer is to stop writing. If you come to an impasse and can’t find a way out, you probably need more time to find the right solution. That’s okay. It happens. In the mean time, don’t let your craft suffer by not writing at all. That will guarantee a prolonged wait to your ending. Maybe even indefinitely.
These are several things that I’ve used and found helpful. If you have tricks of your own, please share them in the comments. I’d love to try them.