Monday, May 2, 2016

Writing Back[words]: Pulling Tight that Saggy Middle

I used to be a pantster. Writing a book would be a real-time discovery. I'd have an idea of the end, I mean, I knew what I wanted to accomplish for the character, but all the in between would be found along the way.

When I wrote like this, I had to write chronologically. If I skipped ahead to write a later scene, it would be as difficult to know my character's thoughts as it is to tell the future. My character was developed as I went.

Over the years though, I've begun to write my synopses first, either for contests, proposals, or just to hash out my story to see if I have something solid to maintain a whole novel.

What I've found is, because I have a general idea of character arc and plot after forming a synopsis, I lose less steam in writing since I can write backward. Generally, the black moment to the "the end" is my closest thing to speed writing. Once I get to this point in a story, the characters have been hashed out, the story is reaching its climax and all I have to do is wrap this baby up. 

Do you ever come up on a scene, and struggle to have the drive to write it? Well, that usually happens for me more toward the sagging middle, but hardly ever from the black moment on. With my current WIP, I skipped about ten chapters and decided to write what I longed to get out--the black moment and "the end". Instead of just fleshing out the bare bones structure and pumping out word count, I discovered that it actually stretches out the story strings and lifts that unwritten sagging middle UP! 


When I get to the last chapters of a story, I begin to stumble upon character's follow-up thoughts to past experiences (that I hadn't written and are too specific for a synopsis) that benefit a satisfying end. 

Basically, I begin to develop an underlying patchwork of sentimentality, life lessons, and richer character history by finding their impacts on the character at the end. The sagging middle isn't so frightening anymore when I discover the beautiful quilt before the actual work of the stitches.

After a great writing session wrapping up my story, I know sit on the brink of the middle. And I can't wait to jump in. My characters have some great growing pains on the horizon, and I know exactly why they are there and what my characters grow into ahead!

Are you a pantster that does this? Would love to know how! Are you a plotter who likes to skip around and hash out scenes as they come to you? And, what other techniques have you used to tackle the inevitable slump in those middle chapters?

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written six historical novels and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check her personal blog at and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken

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