Pep Talk from Charlaine Harris

For me, even having written quite a few books, the middle third of a book is always the hardest part to write. I have seldom plotted far enough to have any very clear idea of where I have to go to get to the fun part… the end.

The middle is where you prove what you’re made of. This is where you pull up your socks and think of some interesting things for your characters (who should be pretty well developed by now) to do with/for/to each other. And it had better be some good, exciting, and maybe even evil stuff.

Personally, I always kill someone. This enlivens the plot every time, and I get to write another “finding of the body” scene, which is one of my favorites. I have never found a body in real life, but I have found dozens on the page, and every time, I get a creative charge from it. This may not be a particularly attractive aspect of my character, but hey! I’m amongst other writers, and I can tell you the truth.

By the time you get to the middle, you should see the ending of your book in the distance. At this point, you need to start getting all your characters in place for the wind-up phase of the novel. You can continue writing at breakneck speed, or you can spend fifteen minutes right now on evaluating where your characters are, then decide what they need to discover to arrive at the denouement.

I use the scientific method of sticky notes, some of which might read, “Regan needs to get a clue that Thomas is not who he says he is,” or, “Soon, Jack needs to find the book!” It’s helpful to remind yourself of your goal.

Perhaps you might want to try setting a new goal a day. Go over what must happen in each day’s pages to move you along until tomorrow. If you have no clue what must happen, leave yourself open to the unexpected. The telephone might ring! Someone might pound on the door! A sinkhole might open in the backyard!

Don’t lose your excitement in slogging through this difficult part of the book. This is what will determine if you are in position to finish your novel. And if you do finish, you can call yourself a writer.

Charlaine Harris

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