Tesseract to the End

Raise your hand if you despise writing the middle of the first draft.

Well, it's good to see that I'm not alone. First drafts are hard. Middles are hard. Combine the two and there's a really rocky road. In fact, I'm in the middle of writing a middle right now and truth be told, it's almost did me in a number of times (this week). The only thing that's kept me going is a technique that I tried on my last WIP as well as the current one. Allow me to explain.

The thing about middles is that they're scary because there's a lot of subtle changes in the characters, there's gradually mounting tensions, there's diverging story lines, etc. It's a ton of balls to keep in the air. Beginnings and endings are hard for different reasons, but the storylines are tighter knit, the tensions are at a head, and the character traits are more defined. Basically, the structure of a novel has a lot of direction at the start and finish--a definite point A and point B. It's the million possible paths to get between those points, some of which are harder than others, which gives me night sweats.
So when I sat to write my last WIP, I wrote the beginning in a fever usually reserved for movie montages. It was fast and quick and fun. Then I hit the point where the following conversation occurred in my head:

"Now what happens?" I asked myself.

I shrugged and responded, "Well, I know he winds up alone and hunted at the end."

"Sure, but how does he get there? What makes him fight against the others to the point they want him dead?"

I stared blankly at myself and then found something shiny in the distance to look at.

On previous works, there'd been similar internal battles and my solution was to just blindly march from point A to point B by a whim. Outline? I had them, but outlines only seem to help me in big picture stuff. And the subtle steps in the middle were too small for my outline to help much.

So on my recent WIP, instead of repeating that blind stumble, I skipped to the part I did know. I just inserted a page break, left out that pesky middle, and jumped into my main character being hunted by the others. And out came the third act with the same gusto as the beginning. Once I typed 'The End,' though, I still faced the central couple hundred pages. Except a funny thing happened: the middle was much easier to write.

See, I knew the main character's full transition...not just in a vague outline-y way, but in all of his mannerisms, speech, and thoughts. I experienced how certain story threads fit together (and how some weren't there at all). Essentially, rather than knowing I had to get to point 'B', I tesseracted there and lived it. Doing so made my actual trek a little less murky and significantly more enjoyable.

As I said, I tried this tesseracting to the end again on my current novel. I jumped to a part very close to the end. I didn't know exactly what happened, but I had a much better idea than the murk of the middle. Once that was finished, it spurred a whole bunch of scenes that must've occurred beforehand...which were much easier to write. Plus, there were hints of theme. Distinct character arcs. Romantic conclusions. The works.

And knowing all that made the middle the tiniest bit less frightening, which has been just enough to keep me going (this week).


Sometimes I think the YA Muses are writing their posts just for me. This happens so often that I've taken to copying and pasting many of them into a special file. This one today was no exception! Thanks, once again, for covering an excellent topic!

Thanks, Carole! And the same thing happens to me when I read the others' posts...they really hit the spot when I need it.

You gave me this advice at a crucial time in my own writing, Bret, and it's helped enormously. I'm still muddling through my middle, but I have a clear vision of where I need to end up. Thanks again.

I think this is a great technique. How often a "where do I go now" middle kills a good story.

This could save me a lot of trouble! Usually I go straight through, but get to the end and have to substantially change the middle around to match up.

Of course, I have to substantially change everything anyway, but this might eliminate some of that extra work.

I've done this in the last two projects I've worked on with some success. If I'm itching to write a scene, that's usually the best time to write it, no matter where it falls in the book.

"I stared blankly at myself and then found something shiny in the distance to look at." Word, yo. :)

Glad it helped! Guess that means I only owe you 999,999,999 more nuggets of advice for us to be even.

Like Talia says below, write the scene that you're itching to write. Both you and your MS will be happier.

I TOTALLY agree. And my current WIP won't let me write anything else than the scene it wants me to work on. Kinda sucks being a slave to it. But what can ya do?

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