Making it through the middle... image from WANA Commons, by David Jace
Making it through the middle…
image from WANA Commons, by David Jace

I’m currently up to my eyeballs in revisions of a novella, and one thing I’m struggling with—one that many of us struggle with, I suspect—is keeping tension throughout the middle of the story. I worry that the middle sags a little, not because I’ve made things too easy for my characters, but because they’re sort of trapped in a stalemate. In other words, there are a few chapters of reaction, thinking, and planning, but not much action. Sort of the calm before the storm.

This might be the hardest problem to fix in this manuscript, but it’s not impossible. I had a wonderfully productive meeting with my critique partners this week, and they made some suggestions that have definite potential: Give one of the characters more agency so she’s not completely trapped in her situation. Flesh out the secondary characters so that they can carry some of the weight. Sprinkle more magic throughout the story. And so on.

We often get so caught up in penning captivating first chapters and breathtaking endings that it’s easy to overlook making those chapters in between shine, but that’s exactly what every chapter needs to do: Capture and hold readers’ attention. Keeping up tension throughout a story can be a difficult part of the process to master.

Do you ever get stuck in the middle? Do your stories ever sag as they approach the midpoint? How do you keep things moving?

ROW80 goals check-in…


  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Revised one chapter. Met with critique partners about three more chapters. Brainstormed a couple new scenes to help increase tension in the Murky Middle of the story.
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. Continued reading “Conflict and Suspense” by James Scott Bell.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter daily. Goal met for Wednesday and Thursday, not for the rest of the week.
  • Blog two times per week. Goal met.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Goal met for Wednesday and Thursday.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop.

What about you? How are your goals coming along? How do you get your characters through the Murky Middles of your stories?

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