Thursday, June 2, 2011

The middle of the map

What with all the blogfests, it's been over two weeks since I've actually written a blog post from scratch. Which is fine, since the WIP is devouring all available brain power. I've been writing (a little quick math here) an average of 960 words a night (wow, higher than I thought) since May 10th (let's call that 21 days). Plus the 6K-odd background story that drops in neatly, it turned out, as Chapter 6, that makes for about 26,300 words so far.

My target (highly theoretical target) is 85K. So I am rapidly approaching the dreaded Middle of the Story.

Dreaded for some. Some people dread beginnings, some dread middles. I seem to have some trouble with endings, personally.

I am a planner. Not a pantser. I start writing when I've got a pretty good map of where we're going and how we're getting there. That map is especially important in the middle, after the characters have gotten a good start and brought their own distractions and quirks into play. I need to keep them focused and moving toward the story's climax.

More importantly, I need to keep them moving toward the next set piece, the next landmark in the story. By getting from landmark to landmark, we'll get to the climax. I hit my first landmark in Chapter 3, 4 and 5 deal with the results and mention the climax, Chapter 6 is the flashback to provide some context for that climax, and now I'm starting 7 with the push toward the next landmark.

Side note: chapter numbers mean nothing, to me. Some people plan by chapter numbers, but I don't.

My map has three major landmarks before we get to the climax. Each landmark is a fairly direct and logical result of the previous landmark and puts my characters in position for the climax.

Since I tend to have a problem with endings, my map peters out around the climax. To some degree, I need to see the lay of the land once I get there, and to some degree I'm trusting my characters to tell me how they're going to resolve this. After writing umpteen novels, I can be confident in that much.

I used to be more of a pantser and I wrote lots of rambly stories that ended up in the weeds. Mind you, the weeds can be fun when you're the writer... but as a reader I've come to appreciate how important the underlying plot skeleton of a story is. And thus I draw maps.

Do you dread the middle? What part of your map tends to be sketchier than the others?

4 comments:

mooderino said...

i find the middle a bit of a quagmire too. Easy to get lost in your own rambling, I find. I tend to use index cards to plot it out, but the first draft still feels lacking, especially in the middle. I usually take the direct route from A to B and get to the end too quickly. It's only in the rewrites that I start getting a hold of how the characters would really react to events.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

ps thanks for the comment on my post, hope the response answered your questions.

Amy said...

Hi, L! Great post! I have to admit I have a problem with writing up the ending. It might be because I don't REALLY want it to end, so I kind of sabotage it. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

I don't like endings, either. Middles can be hard . . . but I find that they can be the most fun part of the story. There's often lots of stuff going on--at least when I plot beforehand.

Chapter numbers don't affect me much, either. I don't even bother numbering chapters in the first draft, usually.

RosieC said...

Gosh, I don't know which part I dread the most. I'm a planner, too, but I find that I can't start well without a solid end plan. I've tried, and my characters stubbornly wouldn't tell me their story. I've had a story set aside for six months now that I can't work on because I have no idea how it ends, even though I'm on chapter 3 (less than 5K in).

Anyway, I love and dread it all. How's that for a generic answer? :)

Rosie
East for Green Eyes

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