So you can read my books

Friday, January 25, 2013


I've talked about the ending ...

about how the beginning is shaped by it.

Now, what Hostess bakeries knew:

It's the middle that makes the product.

You liked that creamy filling?
Me, too.
It was what brought me back.
The icing enticed me.
The devil's food cake was the taste pleaser at the end.
But it was the filling that made the cupcake.

The title and the hook of a first sentence will snare the reader. But it is what lies between the beginning and the stunning end that will keep him turning the pages until he reaches that finely honed climax.

Have you heard a good joke told badly?

Sure. We all have.

Have you ever had an agent or her intern write that your tale did not hold together? Now, what the heck does that mean?

It means you told a good joke slightly off focus.

Eric Trant once wrote me something profound. You don't just slap some wood together and hope you get a table. You start with the proper measurements and a firm idea as to what kind of table you want to build.

Have you been told your tale doesn't hold together?

1.) Perhaps the pieces don't fit properly.

When you build a table, you use wood that has already been planed and sanded smooth:

Try smoothing each page you write as you write it.
Look at it closely as you finish and edit it to the best of your ability at the moment. Start with the next page. Edit it.

At the end of the chapter, print that rascal out. You will discover flaws and rough spots you never saw on the computer screeen.

Trust me. It works. I got the idea from that rookie, Dean, ah what was his last name. Oh, yes.
Dean Kootnz.

2.) The end in sight is great, but listen to the characters.

Aim for the ending you planned. But if the characters twist in your hand and suggest a great new ending. Listen. It is your unconscious mind speaking.

The new ending will prove to be fresher and more novel than what you originally started out with. And since it is more in keeping with the evolved characters in your book, your tale will feel more together, less patched together.

3.) Write hungry.

Always write, knowing you could do better.
Aim higher.
Try harder.
Settle for nothing but your best.
Try to make yourself laugh, cry, be surprised at the twists the characters' evolving personalities take you.

4.) Write true.

Listen to your heart.

If the beautiful sentence you just wrote rings false for the story,
for the character, for the ending, edit it out.
Save it for another novel. Or don't.

Never call attention to yourself : isn't this a grand piece of prose. Always ask how can I draw the reader into the story to LIVE it not read it. Hear the characters talk in your head.

You'll pull back occasionally and say, "Hey that doesn't sound like Jane. That sounds like me. Or it sounds like Eden."

If a character says something in your head that puzzles you, go with it. Keep writing. Wait until the end of the chapter before going back and re-reading the whole thing. Your unconscious is handing you a great surprise for your readers. If you don't immediately know what it means, neither will your reader.

Don't waste or throw away that gift.

Follow these points and your novel's middle will be more than creamy filling. It will be the meat and potatoes of your tale.



  1. Aim for the same ending but be prepared to take a different path along the way.
    I always print out my manuscripts. I miss obvious mistakes on the computer screen.

  2. Alex:
    Sometimes a new ending occurs to me, and I realize that I have been subconsciously laying plots threads to it all along. And Mr. Koontz's print out idea does truly help, doesn't it? Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  3. I've seen that painting somewhere (I mean the real one)--maybe the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow? I saw some other pieces by that artist and really liked them.

  4. Love your examples and message. The trick, for me, is to keep all this good advice in my head while writing and rewriting. :)

  5. I like that image of the warrior/knight too, Roland.

    I write with a plan, but a flexible plan and I do take the odd detour if it appears to hold promise. I'm working with a fairly new character now and getting to know him (suspense). I've also got to get the scifi back on the road with subbing.

    Thanks for thinking of our middles - it's our core strength that supports the story.

  6. Love the examples. These will come in handy when I finally test my hand at writing :)

  7. Roland, this was a really motivational post for me. I especially like all the food references. ;) Really though, this was like a writer's mini manual! "Write hungry, write true" ring, well, very true! Sometimes, we shift priorities subconsciously and the attention becomes more significant than the story. At that point we start to write for all the wrong reasons. It's SO important to keep perspective and write for yourself, for your characters, before anyone else.

    There is no such thing as reaching the top of the mountain; like you said, as writers we always must try to do better!

    Hope you're having a great weekend! :)

    ~Wendy Lu

    The Red Angel Blog

  8. Great piece of advice. Having in mind what kind of story we are aiming for, having an ending ready, and crafting it all to perfection are the bare basics to make a good story worth reading. Thanks for the advice!

  9. Ted:
    The painting is KNIGHT AT THE CROSSROADS by Viktor Vasnetsov, and is one of my favorite paintings. His FLYING CARPET and SNOW MAIDEN and BOGATYRS are truly great, too. All of them are in the Public Domain.

    The ghost of Mark Twain keeps getting onto me for filling the heads of my friends with too many rules! :-)

    I wish you lots of luck with working with your fairly new character. As with our abdominal muscles, a strong middle helps us lift the load of our novel much better!

    Optimistic Existentialist:
    I hope my posts help you when it comes time for you to write! :-)

    You can tell I was hungry when I wrote this, huh? :-)

    I am so happy you got so much from my post. Alas, I am working the weekend through and all next week. It will make 12 days straight for me! Whew!

    It makes me glad to see that you enjoyed my post of writing hints. May your weekend go smoothly! :-)