Mushy Middle Tips for #NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMoLogoHey NaNaWriMo writers! How’s it going? It’s mid-November and that means you’re deep in Act II and might be encountering some mushy middle difficulties. So here are some tips to get you through…

[Click on the titles to read the whole blog post.]

Mapping the Mushy Middle

The key to not getting lost in the middle of your novel is a map. Often we writers have an idea of what is the crisis at the end of Act II – the ALL IS LOST moment when it looks as if the hero will never achieve his goal – but how do you get your hero there? The answer is the MIDPOINT, which is the opposite of the ALL IS LOST moment. Before you drag your hero down into crisis, give him a big victory that makes it seem like he’ll achieve his goal. Every story is a will-he-or-won’t-he scenario. You can’t have failure without success, and vice versa.

3 Things to Keep Your Story on the Road (not the Goat Path)

So now you have the big plot points to prop up Act II, but it’s still a loooooong section and it’s getting a little boring. I have a solution for that: check every scene for conflict, stakes and change. Every single scene; no exceptions. Ask these questions:

  • What does the hero want that she can’t have?

  • Who is opposing the hero in this scene?

  • Is the hero doing something that has a consequence?

  • Does the reader feel the presence of the story’s overall stakes?

  • What is this scene’s emotional change?

  • What’s the story change?

(For more details on what those questions mean, read the full post.)

The Hero’s Emotional Midpoint

Maybe your Act II is falling flat because your character doesn’t have a strong enough reaction to what’s happening. To resolve this, figure out your hero’s death stakes, mirror moment and transformation. Every hero needs an inner journey to complement the outer journey. This post will help you figure those out and get you through Act II.

The Gooey Center of a Novel

Finally, Robin has some baking tips to firm up the middle of your story: add some spice, use a thickener, seat a new diner before the bowl, adjust the serving size, and don’t repackage the same old pudding. To find out how that advice applies to your book, click here.

Hopefully you found something there that helps get you through the messy middle section of your book. Good luck, NaNoers! You’re halfway done!


*Originally posted on Nov. 17, 2014 and re-posted on Nov. 16, 2015 because it’s #NaNoWriMo and I’m busy writing a novel! 🙂


Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

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