Marvelous Middles!

Leave a comment

Just as a little reminder, in an earlier post I gave you my formula for writing a publishable book. BEST BEGINNINGS + MARVELOUS MIDDLES + EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS = BOOK CONTRACT. Today we’re going to talk about those marvelous middles.

Avoiding the sagging middle syndrome is crucial if you want to write an excellent book. So what exactly is the sagging middle syndrome? It’s that part in the story when you’re searching for something to write before you get to that great ending you’ve planned. It’s also the point where people start skimming your story instead of reading it.

And that’s not a good thing!

We want to keep our readers completely engaged in the story. But how? The key to marvelous middles is to keep the tension high, make the reader want to know what happens next.  Here’s a few ways to ensure MARVELOUS MIDDLES:

  1. Introduce a new character. If they have a secret—even better!
  2. Blow something up (or have another murder).
  3. Add a ticking time bomb to the original problem.
  4. Add a red herring, give the reader several choices for the murderer. That will keep them guessing, and that means they want to know what happens next!
  5. Avoid all that back story you are dying to write. No matter how much you love it—it doesn’t move the story forward.

Here’s the key to writing marvelous middles, if you’re feeling bored or that the story is in that ho-hum stage, then do something to shock yourself and the reader. Keep doing that, and you will certainly avoid that sagging middle syndrome!

Whew! Now you’ve got your best beginning and a marvelous middle, so next time will look at  EXPLOSIVE ENDING that will wow that editor and have them clamoring for your manuscript.






This is Writing Tip Wednesday so as promised, we’re going to talk about best beginnings. The writer’s first task is to hook the reader. Starting with a murder is always good, but it’s not the only way. The key is to arouse the reader’s curiosity so they will want to turn the page to see what happens next. So I thought I’d give a few dos and don’ts for writing Best Beginnings for your book. Let’s start with the don’ts:

DON’T start with the main character sitting and pondering life. Today’s readers want action! And they want it from the first page.

DON’T start with description. There’s a place for description, but it won’t do much to hook the reader. Save the description for later.

DON’T start with a sunset–no matter how beautifully you can write about it. Or any other type of weather either! Unless you’ve placed your character in the middle of a blizzard or a hurricane and the reader sees the character fighting to stay alive.

DON’T start with back story or genealogy. Save it until after the reader cares about the character then scatter it in a sentence or two at a time–not a whole chapter at once.

DON’T start with a dream–no matter how exciting it is! Agents/editors list this as one of their biggest pet peeves. So don’t make them mad on the very first page. You want to hook them into the story so they keep reading.

On to the DOs:

DO start with action! More action and even more action!  Today’s mystery/suspense readers don’t have time or patience for characters sitting around pondering life.  They want action! Here’s a little secret–the beginning action doesn’t have to be directly related to the main plot.

DO surprise or shock your reader. You want a hook to draw your reader into the story. A big surprise or shock will do just that. It could be something your character says or does. I’m partial to having the main character say something shocking.

DO introduce conflict as soon as possible–even a little bit of one. Something to get the reader’s blood pumping.

DO have more than one character in the scene. As the saying goes–the more the merrier. And that’s true with writing. By having at least two characters in the beginning scene, you have more flexibility with creating action and conflict.

DO place the reader firmly into your story world. Help the reader to visualize what’s going on–but doing it sneakily. That means you do need some description but  keep it to a minimum.

In my upcoming release, REDEMPTION, the book begins with a conversation between  twin sisters. It starts like this:

You’re retired from the spy business. Remember?‛ Patti stood with hands on her hips, demanding an answer.
“I was never a spy and…”  Jamie paused. Nothing she said would satisfy Patti. “I don’t want to discuss it.”

It’s not every day you hear someone say they are retired from the spy business. I think that’s enough to make the reader want to read a little more to find out if she was or wasn’t a spy.

So got any questions about BEST BEGINNINGS or do you want to share the first 2 or 3 lines from one of the stories you’ve written? Go for it.





Writing Tips–Show Don’t Tell


It’s Writing Tip Wednesday so here goes…

Show don’t tell is the first rule of fiction writing! So, why wasn’t it my first writing tip instead of second? I haven’t got a clue other than POV was on my mind. Anyway…show don’t tell is what will bring your story alive for your readers. It will put them in the middle of the story so they are experiencing the story rather than have someone telling them the story.

Showing:  Brings the reader into the action. They experience what the character is experiencing

Telling:  Telling is a summary of the event. It’s the way you tell someone about a movie or something that happened to you.

A good writer uses both showing and telling.

A great writer knows when to use showing and when to use telling.

One of the things I noticed with novice writers is that they often bring the reader to the point of a crisis, then suddenly transport the reader to an innocuous scene, such as at the kitchen table sipping coffee. Then the character thinks back to the crisis event and what happened.


That robs the reader of all the emotions of the scene. You never, never, never want to use telling during the pivotal action scenes. That’s when you want to stretch out each agonizing detail. Bring in all the senses, not just hearing and seeing. Try to include smell, touch, and taste. And don’t forget to add in emotions as well.

One clue that you might be telling when you should be showing is if you find yourself writing a flashback to an earlier scene so the reader knows what happened. Chances are you should go back to that scene and show it not tell about it later.

NO-NO: Telling: Her wedding was story book perfect except for the fact that her husband-to be-passed out before they could be wed.
YES-YES: Showing: Her little sister tossed the rose petals from side to side. When she reached the front she turned and waved. This was the moment that Allie had been waiting for her whole life. She tightened her grip on her father’s arm and slowly proceeded down the aisle. Tears filled her eyes as she saw all her family and friends watching her and smiling.

She looked up to the front of the church. She smiled at her handsome husband-to-be. He smiled back but then swayed. In slow motion, he crumpled to the floor.

The key to good writing is to find the balance between showing and telling. Too much showing makes the book too boring. Not enough showing makes the book too boring. And the way to find the balance is….practice–practice–practice.

Hope this helps!

Please share with the rest of us if you have a question or want to share your own examples of showing and telling!







GRADUATION DAY! Four Steps to Publication


Christian author, Randy Ingermanson likens fiction writing to high school. He talks about freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior writers and then there’s graduation day–becoming a published author!

How does a writer reach that elusive  graduation day? It takes time and hard work whether we’re talking about high school or publishing!  But it’s a journey to be enjoyed. For many people high school memories are some of their best memories. (That may not be true for some of us bookworms!)

Just as writing a story is a process, becoming a writer is a process. A process that CAN be rushed, but shouldn’t be. If you rush the process, you’re going to miss out on some of the journey. And the journey is as important as graduation day.

There are things to be learned during the journey. Don’t want to deal with rejections? But they make you stronger when you get those bad reviews. Got writer’s block? That’s OK, because you’ve learned to trust the process. The journey will make you a stronger, better writer.

For me, it was a long journey to graduation day—too long. I admit I made the journey longer than it had to be, but I learned a lot along the way. Here are a few things I’ve learned that may make your journey shorter.

  1. Learn the craft. I present a workshop where I talk about the ABCs of Being a Writer. A is for Art. B is for Business. C is for CraftAll three are important ingredients for a successful career as a writer.
  2. Be teachable.  For me, I think this is the number one rule of being a writer. If you aren’t      willing to learn from others, it’s going to take a long time to graduate.
  3. Be a part of a critique group. As you learn to recognize weak writing in others, it will strengthen your own writing.
  4. Don’t get stuck on a manuscript. Many unpublished writers write their first story and refuse to move on to the next story. Instead they write and rewrite and rewrite the same story. But one book does not a career make. Your writing will get better with each finished manuscript.

My first story had so many No-Nos that made it (almost) unredeemable—started with a dream—lots of back story—lots of flashbacks—head hopping—not to mention the always popular amnesia!

As with all things, quality takes time.

In this new electronic age, it’s very easy to publish a book, but I would caution you to reflect on your writing skills. Be honest about what grade you’re in and make a commitment to finish the journey. So that when graduation day comes, no matter what route you take, you can hold your head up and know you earned that diploma…I mean book with your name on it!

Your turn–what’s the best advice you have for a prepublished writer?