Managing the middle

Karalee’s Post #98

I’m well into the middle of writing my new murder mystery, and I must say that the muddled middle really doesn’t need to be so muddled.

I’ve written a few books on this journey of mine. It takes dedication and lots of exploring and, well, writing to learn this craft well enough to become a published author of an awesome well-written story.

Until now writing the middle seems to have gone one of two ways for me:

  1. I’ve rushed all my plot points so I get to the climax and head towards the ending without enough substance to hold the book together.
  2. I’ve written myself into a few corners, make my way out, and then circle around a bit until I feel quite lost.

This isn’t all bad by any means, but rather part of the process of learning how to write an entertaining and engaging story. This time though, my writing process feels quite different, and there are a few reasons for this:

  • My knowledge of the craft of writing has improved. I understand my weaknesses more, and writing those hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words do count!
  • I’ve had experience thinking through my plot-lines and characters and have tried different methods of outlining – from a few bullet reminders to full blown scene-by-scene lay-outs.
  • I’ve found a method of outlining and writing that works for me. I can be creative and keep track of what possibly should happen, what is happening, and what possibly still needs to happen. I’m finding that outlining with what possibly can happen leaves enough doors open for my creativity to work its magic without feeling stifled.

What’s working for me is:

  • Routine. Keeping to a writing schedule without interruption from social media in particular has added immensely to my productivity. No surprise here, other than how difficult it is to keep to my routine!
  • Mind mapping. I use separate ones for developing: characters, character relationships, plot lines, and then a combination to build the story. I’m very visually oriented, so this is a fast exercise for me compared to writing my ideas out long hand. I am fortunate to have wall space in my office to pin up my maps and have reference to them. I also print out and post pictures that are a look-alike of my characters to refer to as I write. (My office is an interesting place to visit.)
  • reviewing in the middle: I’m STOPPING myself for a breather before the climax to make sure I’m staying on track. At this point, by reviewing all the scenes I’ve written, I can update my notes in my table outline. Inevitably things will have changed since the initial brainstorming since my characters “talk” to me and do their own thing their own way. I learn more about my characters, settings, and plot as I write, so it only makes sense that my initial ideas/scene table needs to be updated somewhere in the middle of my story writing.  Where you ask? Well, for me it’s when I am confusing myself in the plot line or I’m stalled and not sure where to continue.

If you think about it, there’s nothing better to jump start the creative process when you are stuck in your writing than to take a look at your scenes and make note of: who, what, where, when and why. Does it all make sense? Keep asking ‘what if’ as you review.

Using a table is invaluable to me to keep track of my scenes, their purpose to push the plot forward, what seeds are planted to follow through on, and other relevant notes such as details that creatively appear and need to be remembered. (they can be added to character sketches later, etc.)

table outline




Who knew that the muddled middle could be a panacea of creativity? It really is a matter of one’s point-of-view, right?

lunch Dec 2014


Our group managed a face-to-face lunch last week. We are spread out more geographically now than a couple of years ago, and I often feel that the organization to get us together is comparable to outlining a novel. Sometimes it seems easier to get my characters where and when I want them to be than get the 5 of us in one room!

There’s nothing like getting together with writers and talk writer’s talk.


Words written in the last 2 weeks:  3,000

Christmas social gatherings attended:  5

Meals cooked:  NONE! Delegating this task so I can fit in writing around the Christmas festivities. Hugs to my family for helping!

Happy writing.

2 thoughts on “Managing the middle

  1. Karalee–practical and helpful advice about that maddening, muddled middle. Also, as you 5 reach the end of 2014, I’m wondering what your combined word total is for writing this blog. The discipline to continue this blog is in itself an accomplishment. The thoughtful and helpful development of the topics is a gift to those of us who follow your blog.

    • Thanks so much Elizabeth! It is amazing how long it takes to hone one’s craft. It’s a good thing I’m enjoying the journey! Hope you had a great holiday season.

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