I’m having a writing hiatus, in between books. But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about writing. Quite the contrary. I’m mulling and reading and plotting – dreaming up my next story. Part of this process involves reading some books on writing theory. My friend and fellow Penguin author Kathryn Ledson has been singing the praises of James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From The Middle. I downloaded this little book onto my Kindle and guess what? Kath’s right! Here’s the blurb:
What’s the best way to write a “next level” novel? Some writers start at the beginning and let the story unfold without a plan. They are called “pantsers,” because they write by the “seat of the pants.” Other writers plan and outline and know the ending before they start. These are the “plotters.” The two sides never seem to agree with each other on the best approach.
But what if it’s not the beginning or the end that is the key to a successful book? What if, amazing as it may seem, the place to begin writing your novel is in the very middle of the story? I’m excited to tell you, that’s exactly where you’ll find it. I am truly jazzed about the technique I discovered. I’ve used it on every book of mine since, and have now set it out for you in this volume.
Bell argues that the mid-point of every effective narrative contains a mirror-moment – so called because the main protagonist figuratively looks in the mirror, takes stock of his/her life and decides which way to go. This is the perfect compromise between writing a detailed outline and writing the entire book by the seat of your pants. Once you’ve decided on that moment, you can write towards it or away from it, confident that your character arc will be in good shape. The book also contains basic structural advice, and some great examples of mirror moments from classic novels and films.
I’ve already decided on the pivotal mid-point moment for my new book – not the exact scene as such, but what I want my character to understand about herself in that scene. This mid-point is the heart of my story, and will set up both my ending and beginning. A brilliant but very simple concept. Write Your Novel From The Middle is only a short book, less than one hundred pages. But it’s a genuine game-changer. I’m going to search out more of Bell’s books.