Category Archives: Beginnings Middles and Ends: Oh My!

This is my mini-series all about getting started, where to start and crafting your story through the basic stages. There are no right ways, and no true directions, this is just a small road map to get you underway on your journey!

After the End

Well, you guessed it the work is not finished with the words The End!  Putting your writing away for a short time can help you look at it with fresh eyes.  That is when the real works begins (that is NOT to say the writing of the story wasn’t real work).  Before you ever start to edit, you always want a finished first draft.  Revising is a multi-step process, so we will start with what you do after the first draft is on the paper.

First, celebrate!  You have crafted a story.  That is a great accomplishment.  Give it a few days to just rest, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

Next, you should prepare yourself.  If you come to rewriting with a bad outlook it will transfer into your story.  Instead look at it as a way to make your writing and your story better.  Every time you look at it, you will make the writing better, making the story all the better for it.

Moving along, print your story if it is on the computer.  Having a hard copy gives you the same experience as your reader.  Make sure you double space your copy, so you have plenty of room for notes.  Then after it is printed read it through, don’t worry too much about notes at this point.  You are just getting the full picture.  A few quick notes are alright, but you want an over-all picture.

You want to start with the big issues and work your way down to the small ones.  By looking at the story you were trying to tell, and the underlying story you see. Ask questions about your story, about the structure of the story, about your characters and the scenes.  Delving deeper into your story and its background will help to strengthen your plot and help bring out the story you are trying to tell.

Now put it away for a short time again.  Let your changes percolate and your subconscious think on your story.

After you have done all of that, now is time to rewrite your story.  You can rewrite the whole thing, or you can copy and paste and just rewrite pieces.  Just do what works for you.  The beauty in writing is it is personal, and you can do whatever works.

After the rewrite it is time to refine your hard work.  Now it should start to look like a good story.  You are ready for the fine tuning.  Twist the characters into the people you want to show the world.  Remember to ask yourself if the little pieces you just CAN’T do without, make sure that they will not make the reader aware that they are in fact reading a story.

Lastly, you polish the piece, giving those final little touches that will make your story shine above the rest.

You have now had a brief glimpse of the process of story writing – looking at everything from beginnings, middles and ends, along with everything in between.

The End

After covering Breaking Into the Middle we have come to The End.  You can fix a weak story with a strong ending, so it is very important to focus just as much attention to your ending as the rest of your novel.  A great ending should surprise the reader and feel perfect for the story that has gone before it!  It is important to not be predictable, as that will keep readers coming back for more.

Keeping the momentum of the story until the end will keep the reader going, only when the main character is completely ready for the finale should you let up on the momentum to give the grand finale.  After that BIG moment you want to give the reader closure – something that leaves them with a feeling of completion.  This gives them the emotional fulfillment that they have been racing through the book to find.  That is not to say the ending has to be a happy one.  You can find just as much emotional fulfillment when the lead character does not get what we have hoped for.  The main character needs to find something better or have some kind of conclusion, happy or not.

When you are lost for an ending and even if you are not, a way to help spice up your endings is to come up with at least ten alternative endings.  Just jot them down quickly, do not think on this, you can worry about their feasibility later.  The main idea is to come up with a few ideas that “could” be fun.  Let the ideas sit for a day or so and then look them over; what jumps out at you?  What looks like it is perfect?  Choose a couple of them to refine a little more.  Let them simmer.  Coming back to them later, choose the one that gives the best twist and satisfaction overall.  Most importantly, remember the ending needs to resolve the major plot issues.  Some loose threads may be acceptable, just make sure that they are not something the reader is going to be worrying over after they finish reading.  No one wants to keep wondering what has happened after the ending.  Having a trusted friend or fellow writer read through to see if the story felt tied up to them can be a helpful practice.

The end is what we leave our readers with so we want them to remember and linger over it.  This way they will come back for more.  Next time we will look at What Happens Next.

Breaking Into the Middle

Last week we took a look at In The Beginning.  Now it is time to Break Into the Middle.  The real heart of the piece can be found here.   The middle is all about confrontation.  It is full of complexity and looks deeper into the life and thoughts of the lead character.

The middle should do many things.  Most importantly it should keep the reader wanting more, and set things up for a culinary delight as the end.  The middle is the real meat of the story, as the reader will spend the most of their time here.  In the beginning we got to know the main character and the world they live in.  As we move into the middle, we need some major conflict cutting up the peace and keeping our reader entertained, we also need a reason for our lead character to stay here, cooking up more drama.  Our characters, like us, will prefer to stay in their own little comfortable world, and the reader will notice if there is not a real reason for the character to be stuck in a world of chaos.  The main confrontation and objective has to be critical to the main character or it will not be important enough for the main character to stay in the heat of the kitchen.

If you find you don’t have enough oomph in your middle here are a few things to look at:  1. The Stakes.  What does the Character have to lose? Is it enough to keep him moving towards his goal?  2. Is there a strong adhesive?  Does the character have a real reason to keep fighting?  3. Add some more complication.  Obviously if there is not enough reason, then we need to juice up the action.  4. Add another character.  Maybe you do not have enough people to keep the situations going.  5. Add more subplots.  This can be difficult as they are hard to tie up if you have too many, but they can add life to your story.  6. Write more.  Maybe you just have not uncovered the real reasons behind things yet.  As you write more, you learn more about your characters and the story they have to tell.  Sometimes you just have to let them finish telling you all the details.

A pot must first boil before the elements can meld and thus give us The End.  Join me next week and we will take a bite out of what is found there.

In the Beginning

We have looked at Before the Beginning and Lost Before Starting, now we move on to In the Beginning.  The beginning is where we really dive into the story, where we start that carving process to open it up to the reader and invite them in to your world.  It is an invitation, an invitation to follow the writer on a journey somewhere, a place hopefully so marvelous the reader stays with you for the course of the book.  It is where your story first comes to life!

What will we find in the beginning?

In the beginning… You want the reader to come to know your world.  This place that started somewhere in your mind and has sprung to life on the pages they are about to read.  You want the reader to be comfortable here, to feel like they know the place, whether it is safe or scary, you want them to feel like they know the rules.

In the beginning… You want your read to connect to the character, on some inner level that they may not even know.  The character is who the reader is going to either love or hate or maybe even become!  The character allows the reader to feel the same urgency and drive and that is what will keep them coming back for more.  The character will do many things through the course of the story, they will succeed, fail, be happy and sad, make mistakes and even be heroic!

In the beginning… You want to share glimpses of where the story will take the reader.  The reader wants to know there is a reason for them to read your story.  They want to see little bits of where this journey will take them.  They also want some saved for later, things to puzzle out for themselves.

In the beginning… You want to show the motivation, what is the reason for the character to go on this journey and take the reader along for the ride.  You also need to show what is at stake for the character.

The beginning is all about the pertinent information to get the reader hooked.  To show them there is a story to tell, and why they should be interested.  You want the reader hooked, but more important than that, you want yourself to be hooked!  If you are not interested, having fun, and longing to see what happens next, then you are not writing the right story!

In the beginning… You take a leap.  A leap of faith, love, hope and most of all adventure!  Next time we will Break Into the Middle!

Lost Before Starting

All writing starts somewhere, and since I have already talked about Before the Beginning, that must jump us into the beginning, but I think there is a step before that yet. The development of the idea, forming and shaping. Where you make a sketch of what it looks like right now, giving you a place to see how to create the next levels. You cannot jump into the beginning if you don’t know where the middle and end will go. That is not to say that wont change over the course of writing it, but it will give an idea of where to start and where to go.

Remember that none of this is carved in stone; it is just a guide to get you moving in a direction, any direction that will eventually find you past the end. Yes there is something even after the end.

Find your way of creating your own outline. For some that may be detailed step by step through the story, for others that might just be notes jotted down about ideas for the story as it grows. We all have methods that work best, for me, I do a rough outline that changes with the story as it grows and tells me about it.

Take this time to get to know your characters as individuals. Before you ever start the story, ask the character about them self. Sure they will grow as the story goes on, but they are already a person in your mind, expand upon that and know who they are so they are real enough for your readers to meet.

Give yourself a plot to work with. That doesn’t mean you have to keep it, this is just where your idea is based, and think of it as a flowing moving thing that changes as new words appear before you. As you chip away at that stone to share its shape with us, so too will the outline and base you create change. Knowing some of the big things you want in the story will help guide you and keep you from getting stuck in the mud along the way.

By finding little tools that work for you, and not against you, and always remembering that you can change things up, you will find your writing experience to be a much smoother ride, and maybe, just maybe others will love the journey as much as you!

Join me next time to dive In the Beginning! See what it contains, and how we can move from an idea and development into an actual start on a journey!

Before the Beginning

Crafting that perfect bit of writing, or short story, or novel all starts in the same place. A place I will call before the beginning. It is that nugget or gem of an idea that will form and as it percolates it will grow. Grow into something so amazing you have to write about it. But how? Where do you start? when that blank page is staring you in the eye and your idea fly’s out the nearest window.

It seems to many writers that blank page is something of a scary thought. So empty and clear, how do you add words, what if you mess up? Personally I like to doodle on the page, maybe even write a few words just to scribble them out. It takes away that daunting feeling of emptiness or that need for perfection.

Some may say it is not that blank page that is so hard, but the idea. How do you find the perfect thing that others will want to read? I really wonder how you stop the flow of ideas myself, or better yet, how do you form them?

And yet still other writers would say the idea is easy, it is the finding the words that craft it into what you want it to be. Making it come alive on the page and in the mind of the reader that is the hard part. Molding our writing into something others really want to read, and even more, don’t want to put down is where the real work comes in. Like an artist sculpting away, the writer has to find the words and then sometimes just toss them away to find the real beauty that we know is under there. Hiding deep and waiting to be brought to the front for all to see.

There is yet one more fear, one I think is the reason for the question of how to find ideas. It is the fear of what others with think of the writing, of the idea behind the work. It is a scary thing, writing. So many things to try to stop you, but a writer knows, those words are there and they have to come out. So if that is the case, how? What are the parts of writing that bit, that short story, that novel? There is a beginning, a middle and end. We all know this basic principle, but I will share some in the next few weeks the things I have learned about them, some things I try to do, and overall the challenges that can be overcome in the doing.

Next week we will look into Lost Before Starting.