Bell: Write Your Novel From the Middle

James Scott Bell has been my favorite writer-on-writing for some time now, and I have his full-length books from Writers Digest (Plot & Structure, Conflict & Suspense, and Revision & Self-Editing) on my shelf. I recommend them all (and should re-read them myself). Bell has also Write Your Novel From the Middleself-published several shorter works, including collections of online articles and blog posts.

The latest of these is Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers, and Everyone in Between (available for Kindle and Nook). Bell begins with a quick look at Plotters, Pantsers, and Tweeners, at the “Death Stakes” for characters (which may be physical, professional or psychological), and at the three-act structure we’ve all tried to wrap our brains around (Bell adds two helpful “pillars” to the structure, which he also calls “doorways of no return”).

Bell doesn’t really recommend starting your novel at the mid-point (although I suppose you could if you are a far better plotter/outliner than I am). But he has come to the conclusion, based on a wide assortment of well-constructed books and movies, that each contains what he calls the “look in the mirror” moment, the point at which the protagonist takes stock of herself, and considers who she is becoming and/or what she must do. Call it the pivot point in the character arc. This moment at or near the middle of the story can pull the entire novel together and tell you what it’s really about. And once you have it, you can write/plot/outline in either direction. The Mirror Moment is the halfway point between pre-story psychology and transformation.

There’s more to it, of course: details, explanations, and lots of examples. And Bell has added some extra essays, including his views on Showing versus Telling, and an analysis of what makes a page turner, based on a 1953 paperback original suspense novel.

Writing Your Novel from the Middle is short, but it’s packed with information and ideas. It is available for Kindle or Nook, and Amazon also offers a paperback version.  James Scott Bell blogs regularly at The Kill Zone.

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