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?


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.

Moody Writing

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? :)

East for Green Eyes

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