It’s been my experience – from my own writing and workshopping and editing others – that most problems – call them hiccups – for writers working on novels come in three places:
- the beginning
- the middle
- the end
I don’t really have tongue in cheek as I write this, and, no, I don’t mean writers have problems with the whole thing. But let’s take a brief look at this:
- The beginning: you’ll invariably get a comment from an editor that, despite starting knee deep in the action or characterizations, you should’ve started later. There’s a balance point to this, though. If you start too far in, everything you write will seem anticlimactic. But starting somewhere within the story, at a place of conflict, will give the reader an idea of what lies before him/her in resolving conflict or completing characterization. Prologues are somewhat frowned on now, but if they seem necessary, make sure they don’t give away the farm.
- The middle: I can’t count the times, particularly in literary novels, that once I’ve settled into reading the book, say 100 or so pages in, the novel seems to be marking time. I call this the Kansas of the novel – – nothing but rolling terrain and miles of nothing but corn. This is where many readers lose interest. Minor conflicts/character revelations, etc. are the perfect meat to keep readers turning pages here.
- The ending: Short story writers will tell you to reach the conclusion and then get outta Dodge. This is good advice for novels, too, but the ending can be drawn out a bit. Remember literary modernity would have you leaving the ending a bit up in the air, so don’t keep on keeping on.