The Dreaded Middle by Nancy Radke

Writing the beginning of a book is exciting and fun. The author puts the pot on the stove and throws in the main ingredients.



The Beginning

At the beginning the author has plenty of things to write about. New characters can be described physically, named, and their most important character strengths and flaws shown as needed. New families can be created and new friends or enemies described.

Then there is a new setting ready to be explored, which includes place and time of year. In my latest Lucky Dog cozy mystery this was my first major change in the series, as the story begins in a December snowstorm. The snow makes it difficult to drive and this becomes one of the reasons a “clue” doesn’t get very far.

The beginning of a story also sets up the plot question which brings in the conflict. In a mystery, the question is usually going to be “who killed —?” If it is a romance, the question will be “who gets the heroine?” Or “who ends up with the hero?” In most of my books, such as Turnagain Love, there is only one choice. In others, such as Dangerous Inheritance, there are two fellows interested in the heroine and she has to choose between them.

The beginning is great fun to write. The book fairly charges along by itself. The ending can be seen, but there are still many words to write. To have a book start, then end without any development of the plot, wouldn’t really be worth reading. The writer now comes to the middle. Many would-be writers stop here. Their files are full of books they started but never finished.

The Middle

What do you put in the middle? Here is where the pot simmers and boils. Rather than looking at it as a dreaded empty space, the writer should be happy. Now is the time for the plot development that fleshes out the characters of hero and heroine, that enriches the conflict they face, that builds the emotions they feel. It is the time when the reader discovers the how and why of the actions and feelings of the main characters. It can be greatly influenced by the choices they make or the environment they are in.

The middle determines the final choices that the hero and heroine make. If it is not logical, the reader will be disappointed. They must choose in a way that reflects who they are. The reader has been expecting this choice. If the book is a mystery, the villain must be hidden until the end, but the middle must provide the clues.

The End

The middle sets up the ending. The pot comes off the stove and the food is eaten. A good book will leave the reader feeling full and satisfied, enjoying the taste of the combined elements. The plot made sense. In a mystery, the now-revealed villain had a strong reason for what he/she did.

How many times were you able to discover the villain before the author revealed him? This is what makes writing the mystery so difficult. In my favorite book, Scorpion’s Trail, I was able to keep the Scorpion hidden until the ending, yet the clues were all there.

Scorpion's Trail

(On Friday the 14th, I will put Scorpion’s Trail in a Kindle Countdown, starting at 99 cents.)

The Miracle of Writing by @PatriceWilton

You might wonder what spurs an idea that evolves into a book? What is the miracle of writing? How do prolific authors keep coming up with plot after plot? And exciting new adventures. Characters that have depth, conflict, emotional turmoil. And then create that black moment when everything falls to pieces. Only to turn it around with a resolution that will make readers sigh with pleasure. This might not be a Gone With The Wind, but authors repeat this sequence of events book after book, and year after year.

The Miracle of Writing

It’s quite boggling, isn’t it? I have been writing for thirty years, published for the past seventeen. Never in my life would I have thought that was possible. I have written at least thirty romance novels—Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense, Women’s Fiction, and Contemporary Romance. 

Currently, I have moved from Romance to Cozy Mysteries. I co-write with my brilliant writing partner, Traci Hall. We write our Salem B&B cozy mystery series for Kensington Books under the name Traci Wilton. In three years, we have written 7 mysteries together.

Feels Like A Miracle

Although that might seem like quite an achievement, I will tell you that I feel like a slacker when it comes to some of the dedicated, savvy, mind-blowing authors I know. They easily can write six books or more per year. It gives me the hives just thinking about it.

Few years back I managed to write 4 books in 12 months. Now, I’m down to three, and can’t wait for two. Ideas come from everywhere and from nowhere. Being a pantser (someone who writes from the seat of their pants with no plot to follow), I would go with the flow and let the story tell itself.

Now, writing Mysteries with Traci Hall, I am so grateful that she is a plotter and I can follow an outline. Working the story, whether romance or mystery, is the fun part. Writing a series makes it easier to know what the next story will be, but creating standalone books or a new series means doing a lot of world building.  

A writer may find inspiration in a dream, or going for a long walk, or talking with people, or even from everyday experiences. Once a spark hits, the fire inside is lit and a new book is born.

Happy May everyone, and take a good book with you to the beach or the park. Writers everywhere will thank you for it!

The inspiration for DEATH IN SANDPIPER BAY came about after hearing a friend mention that they were building a cottage on a remote island off the coast of Maine. Bingo! I knew it would be a wonderful place for a Murder Mystery. So, Traci and I got right down to plotting. The reviews have been sensational, we are delighted to say. The second book in the series, Danger in Sandpiper Bay, will soon begin.

Death in Sandpiper Bay

I had to stop writing when I broke down over a character dying, and I’m the psycho who killed him. — @Author_Carmen DeSousa #Writing #Reading

When I begin writing a new novel, I generally have no idea where I’m going. My typical start of a story is usually the main character—whether it’s the male protagonist or the female protagonist—and whatever issue they are facing.

From there, I just ask myself questions:

  • Why are they having this problem?
  • Who or what is directly influencing this issue?
  • How will they solve this affliction, ailment, or get rid of the antagonist?
  • And lastly, who will help them through it?

The great thing is, just like the reader, I never know exactly what my characters will do. Sure, I know I want a happily ever after, but I also know that not every character will get a happily ever after when I’m finished writing. And the detours they make along the way sometimes even surprise me. Why? Because I allow my story to progress naturally.

I typically write two thousand words a day, and then every night I read the last few chapters to make sure the story flows, marking any areas that need addressing, and then go to sleep, allowing the characters to come alive in my dreams. And ohhh how they do. It’s not unusual for hubby to see me typing on my iPhone’s notepad in the middle of the night. Often it’ll just be a great line or a missing link I was in search of.

When I finally finish writing the novel, I take an entire day and read from beginning to end, making sure the story flows and that there are no holes or contradictions.

Writing is easy, right?   

I’ve read this story almost thirty times at this juncture. How can it surprise me, how can it make me cry? And yet, here I am, sitting on the sofa, my afghan curled around me, and I’m bawling over something that happened. Hubby, who has been sitting quietly by his computer—because he knows it’s read-through day—whips his chair around to face me and asks, “Are you okay?”

I swipe away my tears and answer, “Yes, I just can’t believe that happened.”

“Wait. I thought you were reading your book?” he asks.

“I am,” I answer. “But it still makes me cry.”

He shakes his head and goes back to typing his nonfiction.

One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Well, I’m always surprised, and I always cry when something happens to my characters.

If you enjoy stories that blend happy and sad, romantic and suspenseful, click the link for your favorite retailer below and grab one of my free books. If you’ve read all my books, make sure you pre-order my new release, Erik’s Revelation, at the $0.99 introductory price, so you’ll know why I was crying!

Erik's Revelation

Until next time, happy reading!

Carmen DeSousa

Learn more about Carmen on her website:

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