Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell

Bell

Some people watch television when they can’t sleep. I shop for ebooks, which is how I ended up buying WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE at 3:00 in the morning. People are usually sorry about those middle-of-the-night purchases, but I don’t regret this one at all. I’ve enjoyed many of Bell’s books (see here and here). This is my new favorite.

WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE is a slim volume with a single big idea. Bell focuses on the scene at the exact middle of the novel: the midpoint scene. It is the tent pole that holds up the entire narrative. So many writers complain about the “sagging middle,” as if it is a dreary swamp between the intrigue of the beginning and the excitement of the end. It doesn’t have to be that way. Bell believes so strongly in the power of the midpoint scene, he suggests a writer start there and organize the rest of the novel around it.

Bell pictures the novel as a triangle with the first plot point (The doorway of no return) at the one point and the ramp up to the climax at another. The midpoint is the hinge, the biggest turning point. A well-written midpoint scene has all the high stakes and deep character work that every novel demands, crystallized in a moment of self-awareness that changes everything.

Bell shows how a strong midpoint scene can help both “plotters” and “pantsers” realize the full potential of their novels. By understanding the midpoint moment, pantsers will have something to aim toward and plotters will have something to organize the narrative around. It works for the most plot-focused genre fiction and the most character-focused literary fiction.

When I finished WRITE YOUR NOVEL FROM THE MIDDLE, it was nearly dawn, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. I had to get up and open the computer, excited to start writing the midpoint scene of my next novel.

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rating: 5 stars

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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this book is best for: intermediate writers

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I recommend this book

11 thoughts on “Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell

  1. You can always count on James Scott Bell for solid writing advice. His advice is like pizza. Even when it isn’t great, it’s still good. 🙂

  2. So interesting! I tend to work slightly differently. The beginning is always crystal clear as is the end. The middle works itself out. But I do have a ‘middle’ philosophy. I like to drop my reader directly into the ‘middle’ of the story and the move on from there. In other words, my beginning is my middle, I guess. Must read this book.

    • The author Richard Thompson introduced me to a concept called “the implied first act.” It sounds like that’s how you write. Isn’t it interesting to see all the different ways books can be put together? No wonder I find how-to books endlessly fascinating.

  3. I came across this book a few days ago–I think Amazon recommended it to me–and immediately added it to my wish list. It definitely sounds like something that would help me plot and write my novels! In fact, for the novel I’m planning right now, I have the ending and the beginning both in mind, but I don’t have a middle. But just seeing this book has made me think about the midpoint and what needs to happen so the characters will actually get to the end, and I’m confident the book will be stronger for it.

    Thanks for the review! I’m glad to see you liked it.

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