It’s the whipped up middle, a light fluffy mousse of writing, where the author whisks the same old content in the hopes of making it stretch into more servings. It’s the watery instant pudding middle, with writing so drippy and unstructured that it leaves the reader unsatisfied. Or it’s the writing that just sort of plops on the page like an overturned flan, where heavy scenes drag the pacing down and leave the reader sinking in the thick syrup of a weak storyline.
Here are 5 tips to firm up the middle mush and serve up something yummy instead.
- Add some spice. When you’ve been married for a long time (as I have), you know nothing beats an expected romantic gesture. A funny comic strip left on the fridge door. A single flower. Even a new ice scraper tucked under your windshield wiper on a frosty morning can make a gal’s heart beat faster. Throw some unexpected treats at your readers and leave them smiling, laughing or falling in love all over again. As with all spices, use wisely and in moderation, a little goes a long way.
- Use a thickener. Both good pudding and good fiction need substance, reevaluate the middle for weaknesses and include something new in the recipe. Give your protagonist a reversal and leave your readers tearful. Plump up your B storyline with more depth or an added twist. Remember, don’t thicken to create volume, you need material that supports the structure of your story. If you use this tip correctly, the middle can take readers by surprise and renew their commitment to the story, or send them speeding into a thrilling climax. Anything that challenges the status quo can help the middle of the book firm up.
- Seat a new diner. If the content you have is working plot wise, but it just feels stale, try shifting the events into a new character’s perspective. Just as each person has a unique set of taste buds, each character should bring a unique personality to the novel’s table. Maybe a sad part should go to a light breezy character for a smoother transition. Or something fantastic should happen to the group’s grouch to amaze the reader. Just as a new guest changes the dynamic of a party, shifting events into a new character’s plate can improve the middle.
- Adjust the serving size. Too much of anything, even something chocolate, is still too much. Dig into the middle and scoop out everything that isn’t moving your story forward. I don’t care how much you love that creamy goodness, or how it’s the best writing you’ve ever done, if it’s not working for your plot, it has to go. However, feel free to save those delectable passages in a new file. Go back later (once your emotions are in check) and reread. If the writing is that good, rework the passages back into your novel, or hold on to them for a future project.
- Don’t repackage the same old pudding. The one thing you cannot do is dress up your old pudding in a new way. No fancy parfait glasses, or dashes of rainbow sprinkles, or dollops of whipped cream will make bad pudding taste better. If the pudding in the middle turns sour, chuck the whole batch and start over.
The middle of a novel should be like crème brulee, velvety smooth, with a firm structure and a touch of the expected as its crackling crust.
Up Next from Robin… Pace, Friend or Foe?