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Beginning and end but no middle


After years of getting nowhere with a novel I was working on I finally gained ground after reimagining the setting from an epic fantasy to a science fantasy/space Opera. (Not of the star wars variety)

However I still have one issue. I know how I want the story to start and I know how I want it to end but when it comes to putting together the whole middle of it I only have fragments and ideas but no conclusion as to string them together.

I tried flash card methods but I really far with it (not sure my approach was wrong). So I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on how they get about trying to come up with a way to organize and finish plotting out a story without a conclusive middle.
The middle is always the hard part. What worked for me was sequencing events by the chapter. I summarized each three-chapter sections and then broke it down into each chapter after that. It allowed me to sequence the events in order, check for flow, and also fill in all the blanks where there were gaps in the story. After that the middle portion just came to life. Just keep in mind. Sometimes you just have to put sand in the sandbox before you can build yourself a sand castle. Put the events you have now into play and fill in the gaps a little. You may find that more comes to mind as you begin to place them.
I'm not the greatest at this either. The advice I have seen or received thus far is this:

Dig into Character stuff
Try Fail Cycles - what do they try, how do they fail, how does it relate to their character
Cool Stuff - If there is cool sci-fi, fantasy elements the middle can be the place where you show off that cool stuff as the try and fail at stuff.

The Big Middle Event - building up to what the character think is the climax, but of course goes horribly wrong.

Good luck to you.

Mad Swede

Whan I start writing a novel or short story I generally have an idea of how I want the characters to go from start to finish, and I've usually got a fairly good idea of how it ends. The start is fun, coming up with some new way of dropping the characters in it. I don't usually have many problems with the middle bit, my main issue is stopping all the various side plots from taking over totally and derailing the end.

I'd suggest mapping out the main story arc from start to finish in broad terms, then adding all those little things that might crop up on the way. And there's always something. A bunch of highway robbers trying it on, someone who needs rescuing from some river. Or routine things like making a living. How do your characters make a living, and what does that mean for their "quest"?

And then, start writing. Write the start, write the end. Write all those little bits that you think will be in the middle somewhere. Some will fit, some you'll discard and use in another story. Then write the bits that join it all together. And be prepared to change your ending if something interetsing develops as you write...
I have a wip where the ending was one of the first solid pieces to appear. I'd actually started with a few vignettes that became part of the main story, but then the way it was going to end built on that. Knowing the ending tells me what needs to be foreshadowed (though not too obviously) and who and what must appear along the way for it to make sense.

I think when you have a beginning and an end and not a middle, you're best off either starting from the beginning or starting from the end. If you start from the end, how did the situation you see at the end occur? What led up to it? And what led up to that? And that? If you start from the beginning, what's the most logical thing to happen next? And next?

But really, writing a book is like shooting a movie. The scenes are not created in chronological order. Only in the final edit do they come together. So, if any scene comes to you, anywhere in the story, write it. Figure out where you're going to plug it in later. If it ends up not making sense to plug that scene in, cut it. You might use the idea in some other story, it's just not for this one. And be open to tweaking parts of the story to fit. For example, I've changed the season in some of the scenes I'd already written when I realized that it made the most sense to pair them with another scene that was solidly tied to a different season (for example, the original scene took place in the summer, but then it made the most narrative sense to have it happen right before another part of the story that involved someone getting lost in a snowstorm).
When I think of middles, I like to remember the story of the building of the US transcontinental railroad. Bear with me.

You had two companies moving towards the middle of the country and laying track from both east and west. In Utah, he Mormons, who would only allow the railroad to come through their territory under the condition their own people were hired and paid for the labor, began grading and clearing to build TWO separate tracks, often within sight of each other, and charged both companies for the construction, knowing full well they would only need one track in the end. They figured they would simply connect whoever got there first, then figure out how to connect the two tracks somewhere in between. This, in a nutshell is how I see trying to work through a middle when you have two solid bookends you are trying to meet up with. It can get middle-muddled really quick with too many tracks!

Since you say you know the ending, I'd suggest attempting to work backward from there. If you can see your characters in the final scenes, especially if you have written it to some degree already, great, then take them back one scene, then one scene further. Don't leave anything out because you can edit out the unnecessary bits later. The key is to get that track laid to reach back to your beginning.

I find this method useful to get away from start to finish thinking and, worse yet, over thinking!

Working backwards means you don't have to second guess what come's next. For me it's easier to not doubt, waver or overthink when I only need to know what came before an existing scene and it makes for less a battle over consciously "steering" and more along the lines of historical, detective sleuthing. Searching through history as opposed to foretelling the future, if that makes any sense. Good luck!


I'm in the outlining phase for my next project and I used the snowflake method to help me out with that. When I started I already had a very specific opening scene in my mind (to introduce MC, rival, setting), knew what the inciting incident was (MC acquires problem), and a general idea of the conclusion (make the MC and the rival kiss). So no middle at all. But with the snowflake method it strengthened my core ideas and built things out one step at a time. It also worked really well with my "okay but what about x?" style of thinking.

Example: I knew the rival would be going after the MC because I want that enemies to lovers trope, but no in-story reason for it. When I got to step 3 and started making character profiles, I had the leads I needed to stitch it all together. When you have a basic "psychological profile" of your main players, the story elements can happen naturally if you ask yourself what/why/how. The MC gets turned into a werewolf, how does that change his relationship with others? Well, he's still new at this and must have trouble controlling it, so he's going to want to leave town. But why would he make that decision? I know that he enjoys being a werewolf because [backstory], but what if he tries using it for [profession] and something goes wrong? I can take that scene and compare it to the opening scene to show how the MC has changed. Etc etc

A good way to practice this way of thinking is fanfiction, because it's essentially "what if x?" You don't have to write a whole story, you can just make an outline or write a synopsis, but put a character you know really well into a situation and ask yourself how that would play out.
I'm good at beginning and novel and the middle is where I stop because I have no idea where to take it from that point. I can't generate ideas whether it be in planning the events of the plot or just free writing it. The middle is normal a point of rising conflict, maybe a bit up and down. Sometimes it helps to go back to the characters goal, because the middle is usually them trying to achieve that goal; failing several times and making small steps forward. What steps could the character take to achieve their main goal?
You can play the "no and...yes but" game.

Does the prince slay the dragon in the lair.
"yes he does but he wakes up an army of zombies."
"No the dragon escapes into the darkness and there is a landslide trapping him in the liar with the dragon."
I would add not to make the mistake of thinking you have to move the storyline X% per chapter. Some things may move in a couple of paragraphs. Other things may need multiple chapters to become fully fledged. Catching a child trying to steal doesn't require a lot of explanation, particularly in Victorian-era Industrial London when urban children were dying of malnutrition and starvation. Having him join a crew of thieves takes more time. Just for reference, I'm using Oliver Twist as an example.


Myth Weaver
A little old, but I see Devora on the site occasionally.

I liken stories to all the stuff that I approach with enthusiasm at the beginning, that long slog in the middle, and then all the cool stuff at the end. It is that long slog that is hard to keep excitement about. I also liken the scenes to 'story scenes', where the important stuff happens, and 'connecting scenes' that makes them all make sense.

And I know that feeling of dread that comes when you think of the long middle, and what is going to fill it. BUT... filling it is easy. You just need a routine, and a will to do it. Goldie's keys to success are persistence and attitude. Have those two, and you will get anything you set your mind to. For that, I recommend just committing to writing one sentence a day, and see what happens after a string of days with that commitment.

But here's the secret part you dont expect at the beginning and looking at the journey....The middle is the cool part. Cause that is where all the characters develop, and you get to learn who they are, and how they interact, and in a million ways, you get to reveal them...which is a labor of love, cause I am sure you like your characters. It may seem quite dull from the outside looking at the blank page that the next scene is just travelling and stopping to make camp at that big rock, but so much comes out of it. Two characters grate, one character does not know how to track and the other does, or one eats their meat raw and the other cooks...it does not matter really what it is. It creates who they are, and reveals neat things about them, and they get to contrast off each other, and slowly we see them develop and become real. And that is really the heart of the whole thing. Cause at the end, when swords are clanging and death is imminent, I will care, because I took the journey with them.

I almost never have a great plan for these scenes, but I let them flow, and I never regret the time to make them when they are done. I trust, that would be your experience as well. Cause if it not, if its just a chore, maybe writing is not what you will love most.

Anyway, this thread is a little old. I hope you have gotten deeper into the middle of it by now. For me, the last scene I wrote was about two characters, one is sick, and the other has to nurse them, but really does not like them. So I had a good amount of introspection and dealing with their own non-sense. In the end, that cant think the same as when they started. They invested a bit into making them well again, and appreciate them more. Still a lot of grating is coming moving forward, but the scene is not the cool stuff, its just character growth. Its even better.
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