Journey Through the Middle
At this point in the month, you should be making headway through the middle of your novel. That is, if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo and are at least close to the word count goal for the day. The middle is a scary place, and there is a good chance you’re wondering what to do next.
As soon as you feel yourself losing direction, stop writing and diagram your main character’s motivation, goal, and conflict. I used Freemind to mind map this step, but you can use whatever you’re most comfortable with. If you’re uncertain about any of these, read my post on Story Goal, Questions and Ambitions.
Your hero has a motivation, which will drive the plot. There will be at least one major conflict that interferes with this motivation. The middle is where the hero sees that conflict. His goal will be to defeat that conflict and achieve his motivation. (Your Mini Climax is a terrific place for your hero to realize that conflict and solidify his goal.)
Don’t worry if you don’t know how to accomplish all that. I’m nearly halfway through my novel and my heroes don’t know who the main antagonist is. In fact, I don’t even know for sure, yet! But with my working goals and motivations for my three most important characters, I have a direction. That direction is immensely helpful.
Once you have your own direction, try to consistently plan ahead a scene or two. What is your hero going to do to get around whatever is stopping him from reaching his goal? What else is going to get in his way? Even if you don’t have every detail planned out (which you probably won’t), try to plan enough to get you started on the next scene. That is the important part.
The middle is also the home of subplots. They can be difficult to add in your first draft, however, so don’t fret over them. If your novel focuses on more than one character, map out their motivations, goals, and conflicts, as well. Chances are, they tie into your protagonist’s goals but take a different route. These will form some of your subplots. It’s not unusual for a completed MS to have several of them.
In short, this is what you should keep in mind when writing the first draft of your novel’s middle:
- Protagonist’s motivation
- What conflicts with the protag’s motivation
- How your protag intends on conquering that conflict (AKA his goal)
- What your other important characters are doing in the meantime
Let your characters run the show. Dangle their goals in front of their faces, but don’t let them attain them. Not yet. The Middle: Where You Torture Your Characters!