Common Revision Areas: Meandering Middles

After you’ve made it past the opening and have your core story pieces in place, writing the middle of a book can sometimes feel like a slog. In response, you might subconsciously start rushing your characters toward the ending. Or, if you’re worried about how you’re going to fill the remaining pages, you might find yourself saving potentially exciting or high-stakes scenes for the end of your story. These natural tendencies can lead to an ending that reads abruptly, along with a comparatively dull middle.

To ensure that the middle of your book is strong, think about expanding upon the key details you established in the opening: your characters’ goals, motivations, actions, relationships, and world. How could your characters’ goals and motivations shift over the course of the story, as they grow and are influenced by others? Will there be a time when your characters nearly give up on their goals or realize that they’ve been chasing the wrong thing? How could the plot further draw out your characters’ strengths and highlight their weaknesses?

How might the challenges facing your characters shift? What new challenges could they unexpectedly discover? In what ways might you raise the stakes for your characters? What’s the worst possible moment for the antagonists to arrive or to up their game? Is there a time when everything that can go wrong for your characters does go wrong?

If you’ve completed a draft and are struggling with the middle of your book, a reverse outline can be a helpful tool. You might be surprised at what it reveals about your book’s character and plot arcs. For instance, there might be compelling scenes and information at the end of your book that could develop earlier, spreading out the action and strengthening the middle. Alternately, you might find that some of the action-heavy scenes in your story’s opening could be moved later, or that some of your core characters could take more action throughout the middle of your story.

No surprise: next week’s letter will focus on endings, where all of the character development and plotting you’ve done comes to a head.

Your Editor Friend,


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