Writing Beyond the First Pages

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Has this happened to you? You’re on fire and have written the first chapter of your novel. Maybe you have two or three chapters written. Or maybe the opening of a short story. Then…nothing.

What went wrong?

Here are a few sagging middle possibilities.

Weak idea.

The story idea is not broad or deep enough to carry a novel.

One solution: make this a short story OR expand your original idea. Try brainstorming.

Narrow plot.

The plot is so narrow that you have no where to go to sustain the middle of the novel.

One solution: add one or more subplots which will deepen your original plot. (You can also work to expand the main plot.)

No focus.

Your story started out strong, but suddenly it’s all over the place and you have no idea where to take your story through the middle section.

One solution: write the end of the story and go back to look at the beginning. Now, how will you get your protagonist from the opening to the end you’ve written?

Passive protagonist.

What is your protagonist DOING? A strong protagonist must be an active character. If your protagonist is passive, what can you throw at the character to get him or her moving? What has to happen to get him or her to sit up, get up, and DO something?

One solution: reinvent your protagonist to make him or her willing to ACT in response to whatever situation is going on.

Little or no tension.

To move the plot and characters forward you have to build on the tension introduced in the opening chapters. Tension can come in various forms, from the physical or emotion to creating a sense of impending doom to building a sense of anticipation.

One solution: add to the story from the different forms of tension. NOTE: You might need a subplot or two to achieve this.

Low stakes.

Maybe you have a good idea for a story, but the stakes are too low to maintain the momentum to the climax of a novel. Will what the character is facing matter to the reader? If not, make it so.

One solution: raise the stakes. Ask “what if?” questions. What else could go wrong? What else would make the situation more difficult for the protagonist?

Final thoughts.

Remember that the middle is a series of actions and reactions – situations and challenges (mini-crisis) leading up to the climax. The protagonist should be active, even proactive. If you have no middle, there is no climax, and thus no story.

Question for today: Do you see yourself in these sagging middle possibilities? What problems have you run into in the middle of your stories? How did you find your way out of the sagging middle, or did you give up? Share with us!

Best Wishes,


What the Heck? Time Loops and Those Nasty Little Voices


Here’s what I’ve been experiencing the past couple of weeks. I write all or part of a post and than that nasty little voice says: No one is going to be interested in reading this….

So I stop working on that post and begin another one. Again, I get into the writing and that same little voice revisits me: No one is going to want to read this…

You get the picture. I ended up writing parts to six different posts and didn’t post any of them.

I tried to dispel that nasty little voice, but I didn’t seem to be able to get rid of it. I’ve been living in a time loop that kept repeating. I felt that that guy in the movie Groundhog Day. ()

Thursday night was my regular chat with my online group, Artistic License, and the question was given: What’s the one question about writing that you’ve been dying to ask the group.

And you can guess what topic/question I brought up. The group asked me a lot of great questions and they got me thinking. Sometimes I’m a bit slow, so it wasn’t until today that I had my “ah ha!”

Instead of trying to dismiss that nasty little voice, what would happen if I embraced it? Let it be, and ask it questions. So when I began thinking of what to say for this post, you got it! The little voice shows up. This time I listened and then asked questions. Why might others not be interested in this? What’s “wrong” with this topic? What do other writers want to read about?

And guess what? The more questions I asked, the smaller that voice got. And finally it just disappeared. So here I am, writing this post. No nasty little voice interrupting me.

Sometimes I have to be reminded that if something isn’t working instead of doing more of the same thing, the trick is to redirect and try something different. Sound easy? Maybe for some, but this seems to be a lesson I need to be repeated ever so often.

So here’s the long overdue post. And I’ve learned – well, actually relearned—a great lesson. Isn’t that what life and writing are all about?

Question for today: Have you recently had a writing challenge? Feel free to share!

Best Wishes,