Friday, May 10, 2013
HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN TWELVE STEPS: The Middle (#SEVEN)
HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL: STEP SEVEN (THE MIDDLE)
There is a reason this picture looks a little bit... unfinished. It needs a person to flesh out that prom dress!
I’ve been dreading writing this part. For starters – if you've reached the middle – we have to make certain assumptions.
First of all, that your rough draft is GOING somewhere. That it has a point. (Of course, you assume it includes spelling, punctuation, style, grammar and structure that is all going to be refined… but that’s okay).
Let’s say, for our purposes – the beginning, middle and end each take up a third of the total length of your novel.
Pride & Princesses was over three hundred pages, so that’s a hundred-ish pages for each section.
Yours might be much shorter or longer. There are no hard and fast rules (not really – but you should check out the average lengths of novels in your genre).
What I need to say about the middle is this:
· It might be messy – you really have to clean it up – find some structure and give your words a purpose.
· Warning: the ‘purpose’ isn’t ‘filler’, the purpose has a point. The chapters that elaborate on the beginning must be leading somewhere.
· The middle leads on from the beginning and should be just as structured.
· The middle should add detail to your descriptions
· Develop the narrative
· Lead on from the establishing chapters at the start and head the reader towards a great ending.
· The middle needs to build momentum.
· It absolutely must make the reader want to read on.
The part I remember most about the middle of Pride & Princesses is the scene at the dance which is pivotal. Interestingly, it falls almost exactly in the middle of the manuscript. At the Sunrise High school dance the two main characters, best friends Phoebe and Mouche, overhear snooty Mark and his best friend Jet talking about them:
Beneath the drone of the music, a quite audible conversation could be heard.
Jet started it.
‘I think this is the best school dance I’ve ever been to,’ he observed.
‘As far as I can tell, it’s the only school dance you’ve ever been to...’ Mark replied.
‘Well, I’ll do anything to impress Mouche - she’s totally hot. But I don’t understand why you’re not dancing.’
‘Perhaps it has something to do with you monopolizing the only hot girl in the entire room.’
‘Are you serious? The women of Sunrise High are known for their...special qualities. Why don’t you get together with her friend?
‘What, you think she’s hot?
‘Sure, have you seen her in rehearsal? She’s smokin’...’
‘You hooked up with the only girl in the room I would describe as ‘smokin’. To be honest, I just don’t find her friend that attractive...’
I spluttered into my punch as Mark said this. I was standing right behind him but he didn’t seem to realize and I have to admit, though his comments were hurtful, they were truly compelling...
In this chapter, the story takes a turn. True natures are revealed, characters are exposed. It also shows that the two teenage girls are going to take charge of the ‘romance’ (by leaving the dance with Joel) and it pays a nod to Jane Austen – establishing that Mark and Phoebe are a little bit like Darcy and Elizabeth – just as conflicted, just as ‘in love’ and just as much hindered by both pride and prejudice.
Now, Go to it, people!
Draft your middle – give it as much time, effort and attention as you did the beginning. Make your characters live, give them problems to solve…. Plan how to solve them…